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Tentative Deal to Avoid Gov't Shutdown 02/29 06:10

   Congressional leaders announced Wednesday they have reached a tentative 
agreement to prevent a government shutdown for now, days before an 
end-of-the-week deadline that risked shuttering some federal operations.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional leaders announced Wednesday they have 
reached a tentative agreement to prevent a government shutdown for now, days 
before an end-of-the-week deadline that risked shuttering some federal 
operations.

   Under the new plan, Congress would temporarily fund one set of federal 
agencies through March 8 and another set through March 22. In the meantime, 
Congress will try to draft and pass packages of legislation to fund the 
government for the remainder of the budget year.

   But there was no immediate plan to approve the $95 billion emergency 
national security funds for Ukraine, Israel and other allies.

   "We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund 
our government," said the joint statement from House Speaker Mike Johnson, 
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell 
and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, along with the Appropriation 
Committee leaders.

   Johnson said the House would vote Thursday to approve the temporary funds -- 
ahead of Friday's deadline, when some federal monies run out. The Senate would 
be expected to vote next.

   The deal comes together as negotiators in Congress have been working 
furiously to finish up a federal spending plan and Washington joined Ukraine 
and other American allies around the world in watching and waiting for 
Johnson's next move.

   The new Republican leader is facing the test of his career trying to keep 
the U.S. government open by Friday's midnight deadline for several federal 
departments. At the same time, emergency funding for Ukraine, Israel and 
Indo-Pacific allies remains stubbornly stalled. President Joe Biden convened 
leaders Tuesday in hopes of pushing them toward a deal.

   "As the President and Congressional Leaders made clear at yesterday's 
meeting, we cannot allow a government shutdown," White House press secretary 
Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. She said the agreement reached would 
help prevent a "needless" federal shutdown.

   Congress is in what has become a familiar cycle of threatened shutdowns and 
disruptions as hard-right Republicans in Johnson's majority strive for steeper 
spending reductions than Democrats and even some other Republicans are willing 
to accept. This would be the fourth short-term funding extension in about five 
months.

   While Johnson, R-La., inherited a difficult dynamic, it was only compounded 
after his majority shrunk further when Democrat Tom Suozzi of New York was 
sworn in Wednesday to boisterous applause from Democrats and visitors in the 
galleries following the special election to replace ousted GOP Rep. George 
Santos. The House is split 213-219, leaving Johnson no room for dissent.

   Congressional leaders said they reached an agreement on six bills that will 
adhere to spending levels previously agreed to last year.

   Those bills involve Veterans Affairs and the departments of Agriculture, 
Transportation, Interior and others and will be voted on and enacted before 
March 8.

   The remaining six bills for the Pentagon, Homeland Security, Health and 
Human Services and the State Department still need to be finalized, voted on 
and enacted before March 22.

   Leaders said a short-term extension would be voted on this week so that 
funding would continue for agencies while lawmakers worked on the two packages. 
Lawmakers would be given 72 hours to review the broader legislative packages, 
as is expected under House rules.

   If the deal and the subsequent bills are approved, it would keep the federal 
government funded until the end of the budget year, on Sept. 30, and avoid more 
short-term measures.

   Top military officials said at a Pentagon briefing that the delay in passing 
a 2024 budget has affected the military as it has responded to crises over the 
past several months without additional new money to do so.

   Gabe Camarillo, the Army undersecretary, said that with continued funding 
delays, "we have some very significant costs that we're going to have to 
overcome."

   Meanwhile, Western allies are keeping close tabs on Johnson to see whether 
he will consider Biden's request for $95 billion in emergency funds for Ukraine 
and the overseas national security needs.

   The Senate overwhelmingly approved the $95 billion supplemental request 
earlier this month that includes $60 billion for Ukraine as its military runs 
short of munitions to fight Russian President Vladimir Putin. About half the 
Ukraine money would boost U.S. defense manufacturing as part of the war effort.

   Biden hosted Schumer, Johnson, McConnell, R-Ky., and Jeffries, D-N.Y., in 
the Oval Office on Tuesday with Vice President Kamala Harris.

   The meeting was something of a pile-on as Johnson, who has endorsed Donald 
Trump in the Republican presidential race, was the only leader reluctant to 
help Ukraine as prioritizes a U.S.-Mexico border security deal despite 
rejecting an earlier proposal that collapsed. Biden pulled Johnson aside for a 
private conversation.

   Biden told the lawmakers, "it's Congress responsibility to fund the 
government."

   Without funding by Friday thousands of government employees could be 
furloughed and federal government offices and services temporarily shuttered or 
unavailable.

   Biden warned that a government shutdown would damage the economy 
"significantly. We need a bipartisan solution."

 
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