President Joe Biden has signed a bill into law that was championed by new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson. The law implements a temporary “two-step” solution to Washington’s spending fights and provides a temporary reprieve from shutdown threats, at least for the holiday season. The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support, with votes of 87-11 in the Senate and 336-95 in the House of Representatives. President Biden signed the bill while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in California.
The 32-page law successfully avoided another government shutdown and prevented the potential impact on various sectors, including the paychecks of TSA workers during the busy Thanksgiving travel week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the outcome as “a great outcome for the American people.”
The business community also expressed relief that a stoppage and its economic consequences were averted. Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten thanked members of Congress for working together and expressed hope for continued cooperation next year when spending debates resume.
The bill’s two steps involve providing funding for certain federal government areas, such as the Agriculture and Transportation departments, until January 19, 2024. Authorization for the remaining bureaucracy in Washington is set to expire just two weeks later on February 2. The bill gained Democratic support by omitting Republican demands regarding spending cuts for the IRS and immigration reform at the southern border. It also did not address additional funding for Israel or Ukraine.
While House Speaker Mike Johnson successfully navigated a divided Congress in his first major test, he may have set the stage for more contentious spending fights in the future. Tuesday’s vote required support from Democrats, with over 90 Republicans voting against Johnson. House conservatives retaliated on Wednesday by voting to block previously passed appropriations bills that had been supported along party lines. The resulting gridlock forced Johnson to cancel further votes and send members home for Thanksgiving to “cool off.”
Looking ahead, there may be more fights on the horizon as a provision in the debt ceiling pact earlier this year aims to push lawmakers to reach a larger deal on fiscal year 2024 spending by September. If no agreement is reached, federal spending will be cut by 1%. This provision could potentially lead to cuts in popular programs and is intended to encourage compromise.
Overall, the temporary spending solution provides a temporary reprieve from shutdown threats, but the future remains uncertain as lawmakers continue to grapple with fiscal challenges.