As the clock struck midnight on December 20th, Congress had just a few hours to pass a sweeping $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government and prevent a shutdown. Lawmakers had to make sure they had the votes needed to pass the legislation, while dealing with the pandemic that had been raging for months.
The proposed agreement contains a budget that has increased funding across many categories, including health, education, defense, and domestic programs. The agreement also includes funds for relief from the pandemic, such as additional unemployment benefits, stimulus payments for individuals, and more aid to businesses. However, lawmakers have omitted the language from the bill that would reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to limit legal immigration.
The package follows months of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats as they each vied for their preferred policies and funding objectives, including members of the Democratic House, the Republican-controlled Senate, and the Trump administration. The White House had threatened a veto on previous versions of the spending package, and at one point had urged Republicans to reject it.
Though both sides have agreed on the framework of the deal, the time allotted is so limited that it is highly unlikely that any amendments can be offered or reviewed. Members of Congress have been warned of the time constraints facing them and must quickly vote on it, or risk a government shutdown.
The spending package will need to be completed and submitted to the White House before the current funding runs out at 12:01 am on December 21st. With less than 3 hours to work with, all members of Congress are under pressure to process the entire package and successfully pass it. It is unclear how the House and Senate will proceed in such a limited amount of time, but lawmakers must act quickly to avoid a government shutdown.