U.S lawmakers reach deal to avert government shutdown ahead of deadline

A sign that reads 'Federal employees all day happy hour' is displayed at a local bar as the partial US government shutdown nears the deadline. [Courtesy]

U.S congressional leaders have agreed to prevent a partial government shutdown slated for midnight on Friday, lawmakers said Wednesday.

The Democratic and Republican parties have agreed to finance certain government sectors and have decided to prolong the existing deadlines of early March until March 8 and March 22, buying Congress more time to craft annual spending bills.

In January, Congress approved a stopgap funding bill that would keep part of the government open until March 1 and keep other agencies funded until March 8.

"We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government," House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

After preparing final text, this package of six full-year appropriations bills that fund the departments of agriculture, commerce, energy, interior, justice, transportation and veterans affairs will be voted on and enacted prior to March 8, according to the statement.

The remaining six appropriations bills -- defense, financial services and general government, homeland security, labor-health and human services, the legislative branch, and state and foreign operations -- will be finalized, voted on, and enacted prior to March 22.

The latest announcement came one day after Johnson, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, said that he is "very optimistic" that Congress would avoid a government shutdown by Friday's deadline, after meeting with President Joe Biden and top congressional leaders at the White House.

Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said Tuesday on social media that "extreme Republicans" are openly saying they want a government shutdown, which will harm "millions of Americans."

Despite the agreement, congressional leaders still have to get the deal through Congress.

This is the fourth time Congress has approved a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running to buy lawmakers more time to finish the formal appropriations process for fiscal year 2024, which began on Oct. 1, 2023.

Congress previously approved stopgap funding measures in September and in November 2023.

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