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House And Senate Leaders Reach Spending Deal; Johnson Touts ‘Concessions’

  Leaders in   Congress   announced on Sunday a spending deal that could help avert the start of another   government shutdown   in less tha...

 Leaders in Congress announced on Sunday a spending deal that could help avert the start of another government shutdown in less than two weeks.

In a letter to colleagues, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) revealed a fiscal 2024 agreement of $886 billion for defense and $704 billion for nondefense. The “topline” $1.59 trillion figure matches the “statutory levels” agreed upon in last year’s debt ceiling bill called the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), he added.

Johnson touted “concessions,” including further slashing funds directed to the Internal Revenue Service and cutting the Biden administration’s billions more dollars in “slush funds” from the COVID era, and the rejection of “accounting gimmicks” from the FRA framework. “The agreement today achieves key modifications to the June framework that will secure more than $16 billion in additional spending cuts to offset the discretionary spending levels,” he wrote.

“The result is real savings to American taxpayers and real reductions in
the federal bureaucracy,” Johnson said. The speaker also conceded that the “final spending levels will not satisfy everyone, and they do not cut as much spending as many of us would like,” but he stressed the deal showed progress in championing conservative priorities.

Lawmakers in the Senate and House Appropriations Committees are now expected to pick up on negotiating and completing the 12 annual appropriations bills with the framework in mind. Time is of the essence, as the two-step continuing resolution (CR) passed in November funds certain federal agencies through January 19 while others would get money through February 2.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus voiced dismay with the spending agreement, which is separate from the debate over tying border security reforms to supplemental national funds for U.S. allies such as Ukraine and Israel.

“Don’t believe the spin. Once you break through typical Washington math, the true total programmatic spending level is $1.658 trillion — not $1.59 trillion. This is total failure,” the group said in a post to X.

The “topline in spending is terrible & gives away the leverage accomplished in the (already not great) caps deal,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a member of the Freedom Caucus. “We’ll wait to see if we get meaningful policy riders… but 1) the [National Defense Authorization Act] was not a good preview, & 2) as usual, we keep spending more money we don’t have.”

Leaders for the Democrats in Congress released a statement on the spending agreement.

“By securing the $772.7 billion for non-defense discretionary funding, we can protect key domestic priorities like veterans benefits, health care and nutrition assistance from the draconian cuts sought by right-wing extremists,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).

Schumer and Jeffries also emphasized that they “made clear to Speaker Mike Johnson that Democrats will not support including poison pill policy changes in any of the twelve appropriations bills put before the Congress.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he is “encouraged that the Speaker and Democratic Leaders have identified a path toward completing FY 2024 appropriations.” He added, “America faces serious national security challenges, and Congress must act quickly to deliver the full-year resources this moment requires.”

President Joe Biden also reacted to the deal in a statement released by the White House.

“The bipartisan funding framework congressional leaders have reached moves us one step closer to preventing a needless government shutdown and protecting important national priorities,” Biden said.

“It reflects the funding levels that I negotiated with both parties and signed into law last spring. It rejects deep cuts to programs hardworking families count on, and provides a path to passing full-year funding bills that deliver for the American people and are free of any extreme policies,” Biden added.

“I want to thank Leaders Schumer and Jeffries for their leadership in reaching this framework,” the president continued. “Now, congressional Republicans must do their job, stop threatening to shut down the government, and fulfill their basic responsibility to fund critical domestic and national security priorities, including my supplemental request. It’s time for them to act.”

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