U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) listen during remarks at a Capitol Menorah lighting ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers today approved yet another stopgap funding patch to keep the federal government open — at least for a few days — punting for the fourth time in the 2024 fiscal year in lieu of passing a budget.

The legislation averts a partial government shutdown previously set to begin Saturday, extending funding for a handful of federal agencies to March 8. Remaining agencies, including the Pentagon, will have their funding stretched by two weeks to March 22 under the agreement.

Many conservative House Republicans largely opposed the extension of the current continuing resolution (CR), though a majority of GOP members and a near-unanimous group of Democrats ultimately approved the measure by a vote of 320 to 99. Senators agreed to fast track the legislation shortly thereafter, which passed the upper body 77-13.

Though House and Senate leadership reached an agreement on topline spending numbers for the FY24 budget in January, lawmakers still have not been able to nail down particulars of the legislation, particularly as conservatives in the House have called for deeper spending cuts. A CR has now been in place for nearly half of FY24, which began October 1. 

Dodging another shutdown is likely welcome news at federal agencies like the Pentagon, though the extension of the CR will not be met with celebration by DoD. Under a CR, spending is locked at FY23 levels and new programs that begin in FY24 will not be able to proceed until the new budget is passed.

Military officials for months have warned of the consequences of a prolonged CR, with service secretaries on Wednesday convening a rare joint press conference to outline the consequences to reporters: billions of dollars in funds that are essentially unusable, lost time on critical modernization efforts and the cancellation of training exercises.

Time is running out for lawmakers to pass the FY24 budget before mandatory spending cuts kick in. Under the terms of the debt ceiling agreement known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act signed into law last year, a 1 percent cut to FY23 spending levels will be triggered if a CR is still in place after the end of April. The debt ceiling deal also capped FY24 and FY25 defense spending at $886 billion and $895 billion, respectively. 

Officials have said spending areas like troop pay would be fenced off from those cuts, meaning other accounts like R&D and acquisition would likely have to bear the brunt if spending is slashed.