Republican and Democratic leaders have reached a budget deal that could avert a government shutdown that likely would have included the Agriculture Department.
The agreement on what's known as "topline" budget numbers allows for $1.66 trillion in spending, including $886.3 billion in defense spending and $772.7 billion in domestic discretionary spending, The Washington Post reported.
But when the Senate returns on Monday and the House on Tuesday, members will have to work quickly to reach agreement before the continuing resolution that funds several agencies -- including USDA -- runs out on January 19 if a shutdown is to be avoided.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., jointly announced the agreement, which is not expected to win support from the most conservative House members. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., was also supportive.
Johnson also sent a letter to House members on Sunday explaining the justifications for the deal as well as pointing to cuts as a way to gain support among fellow Republicans.
"While these final spending levels will not satisfy everyone, and they do not cut as much spending as many of us would like, this deal does provide us a path to: 1) move the process forward; 2) reprioritize funding within the topline towards conservative objectives, instead of last year's Schumer-Pelosi omnibus; and 3) fight for the important policy riders included in our House FY24 bills," Johnson wrote in a letter, according to a report by MSNBC.
President Biden praised the agreement and urged congressional Republicans to support it.
In a statement, Biden said, "The bipartisan funding framework congressional leaders have reached moves us one step closer to preventing a needless government shutdown and protecting important national priorities. 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. I want to thank Leaders Schumer and Jeffries for their leadership in reaching this framework. 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."
The topline numbers released Sunday do not spell out nuts and bolts of individual departments such as USDA. The House has failed to pass the appropriations bill for USDA/FDA and other related agencies since first attempting to vote on the bill last July. One of the biggest sticking points for the USDA/FDA bill is a provision that makes it more difficult for women to receive a prescription for the abortion pill mifepristone, which is overseen by FDA.
Schumer, on the social media X, posted Sunday afternoon, posted a statement from himself and Jeffries. "We have 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."
The House Freedom Caucus, which is a block of the most conservative members of Congress, also posted on X, calling the agreement "a total failure." The group said the spending level was higher than they would support.
Johnson won the vote to become House Speaker in late October after House Republicans ousted his predecessor, Rep. Mike McCarthy of California, because McCarthy negotiated a short-term spending deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the 2023 fiscal year last September.
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