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Thursday, February 29, 2024

CR Averts Shutdown Until Nov. 17: Congress Still at Odds Over Border Policy and Ukraine Funding as Negotiations Restart

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that lawmakers need "to pass a budget that provides us with the resources we need to meet our evolving challenges and threats."

With less than an hour left in the fiscal year, the White House announced late Saturday that President Biden signed a “clean” continuing resolution free of riders to avert a shutdown and fund the government through Nov. 17.

Throughout the week of Capitol Hill wrangling, with conservatives dismissing a bipartisan Senate CR, it seemed that a shutdown was inevitable. A House CR was instead brought forward that would have extended appropriations for federal agencies through Oct. 31 and also included numerous border policy changes — including resuming construction of the last administration’s border wall project, requiring U.S. Customs and Border Protection to submit a strategic five-year technology investment plan to Congress, requiring 22,000 full-time active-duty Border Patrol agents by 2025, and restricting the use of the CBP One mobile app to cargo inspections. It would have also blocked the Department of Homeland Security from using funds on the alternatives to detention program or purchasing electric vehicles, placed new restrictions on asylum-seekers and refugees, required migrant children to be detained if they arrive as part of a family unit, and placed new restrictions on the handling and placement of unaccompanied minors.

That bill was rejected Friday 198-232, with 21 Republicans joining all Democrats to vote against the CR.

On Saturday, the House passed a “clean” CR by a vote of 335-91, with 90 Republicans voting against the bill. The CR keeps the government open at current funding levels through Nov. 17 and includes $16 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund. It does not include the border policy provisions that were in the GOP’s CR version that failed Friday.

The CR does not include aid for Ukraine; the bipartisan CR passed by the Senate 77-19 on Tuesday included nearly $4.5 billion to continue response to Russia’s invasion.

When the “clean” CR came to the upper chamber Saturday night, senators passed the bill 88-9 — with all of the opposition coming from Republican members — and sent the bill to the White House for the president’s signature.

Biden praised lawmakers for “preventing an unnecessary crisis” while noting that work needed to be done. “While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support,” he said. “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told NBC’s Meet the Press this morning that he supports “being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons that they need, but I firmly support the border first.”

“They have more than $3 billion right now to help them to get through it,” McCarthy said of Ukraine funding. “If they have some challenge, we can sit down and we can talk about that.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday night that the stopgap measure was welcome to prevent a shutdown “that would have had a profound impact on the lives our troops and civilians who work and sacrifice to defend this country every day,” and urged Congress “to live up to America’s commitment to provide urgently-needed assistance to the people of Ukraine as they fight to defend their own country against the forces of tyranny.”

“America must live up to its word and continue to lead,” Austin said.

With congressional Republicans divided over Ukraine aid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor of the upper chamber Saturday that he is “confident the Senate will pass further urgent assistance to Ukraine later this year.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tweeted Saturday that he is “relieved that a government shutdown has been avoided for now.”

“Our incredible @DHSgov workforce, and our great federal partners, will receive the pay to which they are entitled and so richly deserve. Every day, they keep the homeland secure and the American people safe,” Mayorkas said. “At the same time, we should never be on the brink of shutting down the government. Congress needs to pass a budget that provides us with the resources we need to meet our evolving challenges and threats.”

On Thursday, the House passed a $91.515 billion DHS appropriations bill by a 220-208 vote. It includes $2 billion for border wall construction while not funding DHS Headquarters consolidation.

The White House has vowed to veto the bill, citing how it omits funding for a new Southwest Border Contingency Fund, eliminates the Shelter and Services Program for migrants who are released from DHS custody, does not fund USCIS application processing and grant programs intended to improve asylum processing, eliminates the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) grant program, puts limits on DHS’ immigration enforcement policy, blocks use of the CBP One app to let migrants make processing appointments at the border, and more.

As Congress moves back into negotiation mode for fiscal year 2024, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said today that he will force a vote this week on whether McCarthy will remain speaker. McCarthy brushed off the threat to his speakership as “nothing new.”

“Passing this measure, and keeping the lights on, will allow us to return our attention to making headway on the full-year appropriations our colleagues have been working on literally for months,” McConnell said of the short-term CR that averted a shutdown for now. “And it will give us the flexibility to meet urgent supplemental priorities, both at home and abroad.”

“I’ve said from day one this is a bridge CR, a temporary solution, not the final destination. We will not stop fighting for more economic and security assistance for Ukraine. Majorities in both parties support Ukraine aid, and doing more is vital for America’s security and for democracy around the world,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “But this CR is still very good news for the American people.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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