Washington, Jan 7 (EFE).- Republicans and Democrats on Sunday announced a $1.66 trillion agreement to fund the US government through 2024, a first step toward avoiding a government shutdown.
The deal was announced jointly by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Speaker of the US House of Representatives Mike Johnson, a Republican.
It must now be ratified by the US Congress and overcome likely opposition from far-right House Republicans who had hoped to force steep budget cuts.
Lawmakers, who return to Congress this week after the Christmas recess, will have until Jan. 19 to approve the deal if they want to avoid having to shut down the government.
Funding for about 20% of the government’s budget runs out on Jan. 19, including veterans’ benefits, while the rest of the money runs out on Feb. 2.
Although no details of the agreement have been released, according to the Washington Post, it will allow for $886.3 billion in defense spending and $772.7 billion in discretionary spending.
Those figures, the newspaper notes, are in line with an agreement reached last spring by President Joe Biden and then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to suspend the nation’s debt limit.
In a statement, President Biden said the agreement brings the country closer to avoiding an unnecessary 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,” Biden added.
In a letter released after the announcement, Johnson (the current Speaker of the House) said that it achieves significant changes from when negotiations began in June and that there will be “more than $16 billion in additional spending cuts to offset the discretionary spending levels.”
“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 said.
The US Congress passed a new budget extension last Nov. 15 that averted a looming government shutdown with two expiration dates (Jan. 19 and Feb. 2) that should allow lawmakers to negotiate the budget for fiscal year 2024 in time.
The White House has been warning for weeks about the tight deadline for negotiating the agreement, which includes controversial aspects such as immigration policy and military aid to Ukraine.
Congress had focused its efforts before the end of the year on negotiating the more than $100 billion economic package requested by the White House for military aid, including for Ukraine and Israel.
In exchange for the more than $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, Republicans have demanded a tightening of immigration policies.
The White House had warned that the money approved through 2023 for Ukraine has run out and that it will not be able to continue supporting Kyiv in its war with Russia. EFE