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Congress unveils final spending package, as Friday midnight deadline looms

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference with Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Majority Whip Tom Emmer following a closed-door caucus meeting on March 20. Congressional leaders announced they reached a deal on a FY2024 spending package.
Chip Somodevilla
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Getty Images
House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference with Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Majority Whip Tom Emmer following a closed-door caucus meeting on March 20. Congressional leaders announced they reached a deal on a FY2024 spending package.

Updated March 21, 2024 at 9:02 AM ET

Congressional leaders have released the second and final bipartisan package of six 2024 fiscal year appropriations bills, teeing up a race against the clock for lawmakers to pass the bills before a deadline of Friday at midnight.

The $1.2 trillion package includes defense, homeland security, financial services and general government, labor-HHS, the legislative branch, and state-foreign operations. It funds the federal government until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

"This bill 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," House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, said in a statement.

Democrat Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who are chair and vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said "there is zero need for a shutdown or chaos."

"Members of Congress should waste no time in passing these six bills, which will greatly benefit every state in America and reflect important priorities of many Senators," the pair said in a statement.

The package represents the second set of annual spending bills. Congress voted on the first batch on March 8.

Now that the text is released, the question becomes whether Congress can vote on the package before the deadline of Friday at midnight.

House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters on Wednesday he expected the House would vote on Friday. That timeline means his members won't have the 72 hours to read the text before voting on the package that House GOP leadership had promised.

"The Republican Party believes in the idea that you review legislation before you vote on it. And the 72-hour custom — tradition — is something we maintain," Johnson said after a closed-door meeting with the GOP conference. "We're also up against the crunch of the weekend, and some members on both sides of the aisle will be traveling and that kind of thing. So we're talking about how to expedite it as quickly as possible, but also allow all the members to have an adequate time to review the legislation."

Johnson will likely pass the package under suspension, which requires a two-thirds vote threshold. He'll need robust bipartisan support in order for the package to pass, particularly because he does not have the support of the House Freedom Caucus. There was early pushback from Freedom Caucus members on Wednesday as it appeared increasingly likely members wouldn't have the 72-hour review period.

"Look, here's the here's the dirty little secret in this town. They don't like you to have time to review a bill that they know the American people aren't going to love," Texas Rep. Chip Roy, who serves as the policy chair of the Freedom Caucus, said. "If this bill sits out for two weeks, it will get pilloried like a piñata. And so they want to jam it through over the next 48 hours so that the American people don't have time to go, 'Wait, what the hell?'"

What's in the package?

As is expected after an intense stretch of bipartisan negotiations, both sides are touting what they view as political wins.

"House Republicans have achieved significant conservative policy wins, rejected extreme Democrat proposals, and imposed substantial cuts to wasteful agencies and programs while strengthening border security and national defense," Johnson said, emphasizing an increase in the number of ICE detention beds and border patrol agents, cutting funding to NGOs, and boosting funding for border protection technology.

Other Republican wins are provisions that prevent the Consumer Product Safety Commission from banning gas stoves and only allowing the American flag and official flags to fly at embassies. The bill also maintains the Hyde Amendment, a decades-long prohibition on federal funding for most abortions.

Johnson and other Republicans are also praising a provision that halts funding for UNWRA, the United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinians, through March 2025. The Israeli military said in early February that it found a series of tunnels under the Gaza headquarters of UNRWA, and that the militant group Hamas, which launched a brutal attack against Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, stored electrical supplies in those tunnels. Israel also alleged that 12 UNRWA staffers took part in Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7. UNRWA said it was "taking swift action" after Israel presented it with evidence, and the Biden administration decided to pause funding for the agency.

Roy told reporters Wednesday he was pleased with the provision to defund UNRWA.

"At the end of the day, if we've at least taken at least one whack at UNWRA, that's something," he said, before adding that even with UNWRA as a "win," "[it] doesn't make up for not having 72 hours to read the bill and not addressing some of the issues of DOD."

Meanwhile, Democrats are lauding a $1 billion increase for childcare and early learning programs within HHS. It allocates roughly $12 billion for Head Start, aimed at addressing staffing shortages in the program that supports education for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Democrats are also praising the authorization of an additional 12,000 Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who assisted the U.S. during the war in Afghanistan.

Here's a look at some of the other provisions included:

NPR's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.