Congressional leaders roll out final $1.2T funding package ahead of Saturday shutdown deadline

Congressional leaders are one step closer to closing out a particularly chaotic government funding season, releasing a massive, $1.2 trillion spending package early Thursday morning that they aim to pass through both chambers by week’s end.

Lawmakers are again racing against a partial government shutdown that would hit just after midnight Saturday morning, after a fight over border-related funding delayed legislative text. The new package leaders unveiled overnight would boost budgets for the military through the end of September, while keeping funding for most non-defense agencies about even with current spending levels.

The six-measure bundle is the most substantial bipartisan legislation Speaker Mike Johnson has negotiated during his nearly five months leading the House, representing a much more controversial package than the one Congress cleared earlier this month. The latest bill would wrap up the government funding work that vexed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy throughout his tumultuous nine-month run leading the House last year.

Johnson called the newly unveiled legislation a “serious commitment” to “strengthening our national defense” by moving the military toward its “core mission.”

The cross-party compromise is also a conclusive defeat for House conservatives. The Freedom Caucus has continuously pressured leadership to cut federal funding — even at the cost of a shutdown — and pass the 12 regular spending bills individually. After some in the right flank ousted McCarthy for defying those demands and averting a shutdown with Democratic help in September, members of the group have made similar asks of Johnson, who has instead pursued bipartisan spending levels that nearly mimic a deal McCarthy reached with Biden last year.

Democrats are lauding a new $1 billion infusion for child care and Head Start programs, alongside more Title I resources for schools that serve low-income students. They’re also celebrating $120 million for cancer research, $100 million for Alzheimer’s research, $1 billion for the Pentagon’s climate change activities, funding for a new FBI headquarters that a number of Republicans opposed and more.

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) praised the $1 billion investment in child care and Head Start, calling it “a critical investment to help tackle the child care crisis that is holding families and our economy back.”

“This package will give families some extra breathing room — and help continue America’s historic economic recovery,” she said in a statement.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democratic appropriator in the House, said Democrats were successful in blocking Republican attempts to limit women’s access to reproductive health care, stopping GOP efforts to eliminate Title X family planning and teen pregnancy prevention grants.

The legislation also includes a yearlong extension of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR — an authorization Republicans had resisted, raising concerns about the program’s funds flowing to abortion providers overseas.

The breakthrough on the six-bill package follows days of fervid negotiations between the White House and Republican leaders over budgets for border security and immigration efforts. As final negotiations were concluding over the weekend, the Biden administration demanded that talks pivot from a stopgap spending bill that could have saddled the Department of Homeland Security with a largely stagnant budget for the rest of the fiscal year.

After reopening talks on a full funding bill for DHS, negotiators agreed to increase immigration detention capacity to 42,000 people Immigration and Customs Enforcement can hold at one time. That increase amounts to about a 24 percent bump over the current detention-bed capacity of 34,000 and is among the top deal-making victories Johnson has touted.

The speaker is also celebrating funding for 22,000 Border Patrol agents, the same number House Republicans included in H.R. 2, the immigration and border security measure they passed last year and have pressed the Senate to take up, to no avail. Funding for border technology would also increase by 25 percent over current spending levels.

Republicans boast that they successfully shifted border security funding toward “enforcement,” rather than DHS management budgets and funding for non-profit groups that provide shelter and other resources to undocumented immigrants crossing the border into the U.S.

“While these changes are welcome, only a significant reversal in policy by the president to enforce the law can ultimately secure our border,” Johnson said in a statement.

The bill would also prohibit funds for UNRWA through March 2025 following allegations that members of the organization, which is aimed at helping Palestinian refugees, were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. And the package would also grant 12,000 new visas for a program that allows Afghan allies who assisted in the U.S. war effort to immigrate to the U.S.

House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) said the package “funds our highest national security priorities — it invests in a more modern, innovative, and ready fighting force, continues our strong support for our great ally Israel, and provides key border enforcement resources.”

“At the same time, we made cuts to programs that have nothing to do with our national security and pulled back billions from the administration,” she said.

The package also continues to block an oft-controversial cost-of-living salary increase for members of Congress, who haven’t seen a pay bump since 2009.

Besides the military and DHS, the funding package released Thursday covers budgets for federal education, health and labor programs, along with the IRS and foreign operations. It would also fund congressional operations, as well as the departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security.