Congress to vote on spending package

The spending package maintains spending for some line items and cuts others with a $1.5 billion total increase over the 2023 fiscal bill.
BY LUKE REYNOLDS
united states capitol building in washington dc

Congress will vote on a $435 billion spending package on Feb. 28 that will keep portions of the federal government funded through the fiscal year.  

The package includes six full-year spending bills to fund several agencies until early fall, including the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Justice, Commerce and Energy.    

“After lurching from shutdown threat to shutdown threat, legislation funding these federal agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year is a welcome development,” says Nathan Bowen, Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia, advocacy and public affairs vice president. “This legislation was critical to avoiding a partial shutdown of important federal agencies such as USDA and avoiding draconian cuts that would have been imposed across all federal agencies. And added investments for agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers are important for the irrigation community, ensuring that water continues to flow to our farms and cities efficiently and sustainably.” 

Despite maintaining some line items from their previous funding levels — $2.8 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds for the fiscal year 2023, for example — the package cuts overall Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., funding by nearly 10%.  

“House Republicans secured key conservative policy victories, rejected left-wing proposals, and imposed sharp cuts to agencies and programs critical to President Biden’s agenda,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, said in a prepared statement. 

The agriculture bill includes $7 million earmarked for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.  

“Democrats fought hard to protect investments that matter to working people everywhere and help keep our economy strong — rejecting devastating cuts to housing, nutrition assistance, and more,” Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Washington, said in a statement. “Importantly, we blocked countless extreme Republican policies — like efforts to restrict abortion rights — that would have set our country back decades. Forcing states to pick and choose which moms and kids will be able to access essential WIC benefits was never an acceptable outcome to Democrats, and this bill ensures that won’t happen by fully funding WIC for millions of families nationwide.”  

Despite the successes highlighted in the recent fiscal 2024 spending bills, Bowen emphasizes the ongoing challenges and the critical work that lies ahead.
“While we recognize the efforts to allocate funding toward essential programs that directly impact our work in irrigation and water management, it’s imperative to acknowledge the broader context within which these decisions were made,” he says. “That Congress was not able to enact basic funding legislation does not bode well for action on other key priorities for the irrigation industry such as a farm bill, improvements to the tax system to benefit business investment and research, and reforms to the nation’s immirgation and guest worker programs.” 

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