Government Shutdown Averted: Congress Approves $1.2 Trillion Spending Package

A government shutdown was averted by Congress shortly after the deadline passed.
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Taryn Phaneuf
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson

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Updates as of March 23:

  • The government shutdown has finally been averted for good — at least for this fiscal year. In the early morning hours on Saturday, the Senate finally approved the $1.2 trillion spending bill, which funds roughly 70% to 80% of the government. The Senate passed the bill shortly after the midnight deadline on Friday despite the House approving the package earlier in the day. Had the Senate failed to approve the package, the lapse would have put nonessential federal workers on furlough without pay during the shut down, but otherwise caused minimal impact to government services. Since September, Congress has had to rely repeatedly on last-minute maneuvering to avoid a shutdown. 

  • The drama of funding the 2023-2024 fiscal year is over, but there's only six months until Congress will need to approve appropriations again: The deadline to fund the 2024-2025 fiscal year is Oct. 1.

  • As of Friday, the House passed a $1.2 trillion spending package that would fund another 80% of the government. The Senate was still voting on amendments when the midnight deadline passed.

  • On March 8, the Senate passed six funding bills and sent them to the desk of President Joe Biden just hours before a deadline to avert a partial government shutdown. The measures will fund about 20% of the government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The House of Representatives passed its bipartisan package of six funding bills March 6.

  • The staggered deadline for the funding bills set by an earlier extension was March 1 and March 8. On Feb. 29, Congress passed yet another short-term deal to extend funding to the new deadlines (March 8 and March 22). 

It looks like nearly half the fiscal year could be over before Congress gets around to funding for it.

On Jan. 18, with under 36 hours left before the government was expected to shut down, Congress passed a bipartisan continuing resolution to extend funding until March 1 and March 8, depending on the department that needs funding approval.

The move effectively kicked the can down the road for a deeply-divided Congress to agree on spending levels for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. It was the third stopgap in the government shutdown saga that began back in September.

The stopgap is only a delay, and the government could still shut down come March. A government shutdown probably won’t greatly impact your day-to-day life unless you work for the federal government. But it could result in a slew of bothersome disruptions.    

Key context

  • Congress must approve 12 key appropriations to fund federal agencies for each fiscal year. The 2023-24 fiscal year began on Oct. 1. 

  • Two continuing resolutions made last year extended funding for the 2023-24 fiscal year. That means funding remained at 2022-23 levels and allowed federal agencies to continue operations. 

  • The previous extension was set to expire on Jan. 19 for military and veterans programs, as well as the departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture. Spending for energy and water development and related agencies also would have been affected. A second expiration date was set for Feb. 2 that included the State, Justice, Defense, Commerce and Labor departments, as well as Health and Human Services. 

  • For a moment, it looked like Congress had come to a consensus on a spending bill with a $1.7 trillion bipartisan deal reached by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Mike Johnson last week. But its chances of passing soon crumbled when hardline House Republicans declared it dead on arrival.

  • Both deadlines have been extended to March 1 and March 8, respectively.  

What this means

  • Congress has until March to finally agree on spending levels for the 2023-24 fiscal year. 

  • Any funding agreement would likely include all 12 appropriations, as Schumer and Johnson’s proposed spending bill did last week.  

What services could shut down?

  • The worst effects would be felt by government workers. Some would be furloughed without pay. Others would continue to work but would also go without pay for the duration of the shutdown. Everyone would receive back pay when funding is restored. 

  • Certain nonessential services would be suspended. National park operations, the IRS's customer service and Federal Student Aid assistance would close up shop.

What programs would continue?

  • Anything that receives mandatory funding would continue, such as law enforcement and power grid maintenance.  

  • Air traffic control would continue, but you could experience some travel disruptions anyway. 

What else could be disrupted?

  • Programs like Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits would continue. But if a shutdown went on long enough, there could be delays in approvals and the delivery of certain benefits. 

  • Homebuying could prove more difficult if you plan to get a reverse mortgage, Title I loan or a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

What’s next?

  • Congress has until March 8 to get its act together.

  • Without a deal or another continuing resolution, you can expect a partial shutdown as soon as March 8 and, if no action is taken by March 22, there would be a full shutdown. 

  • With the way this divided Congress is acting, it’s likely any future decisions — to fund or extend again — will be made under the gun.   

Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images News via Getty Images

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