Top congressional negotiators in the early hours of Thursday unveiled the $1.2 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September, though it remained unclear whether Congress would be able to complete action on it in time to avert a brief partial government shutdown over the weekend.

Lawmakers are racing to pass the legislation before a Friday midnight deadline in order to prevent a lapse in funds for over half the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon and health agencies. They are already six months behind schedule because of lengthy negotiations to resolve funding and policy disputes.

Now that they have agreed on a final package, which wraps six spending bills together, passage could slip past 12:01 on Saturday morning because of a set of arcane congressional rules. House Republican leaders were signaling that they intended to hold a vote on the bill on Friday, bypassing a self-imposed rule requiring that lawmakers be given at least 72 hours to review legislation before it comes up for a vote.

There could be additional hurdles in the Senate, where any one lawmaker’s objection to speedy passage of legislation could prolong debate and delay a final vote.

Democrats and Republicans both highlighted victories in the painstakingly negotiated legislation. Republicans cited as victories funding for Border Patrol agents, additional detention beds run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a provision cutting off aid to the main United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinians. Democrats secured funding increases for federal child care and education programs, cancer and Alzheimer’s research.

“We had to work within difficult fiscal constraints — but this bipartisan compromise will keep our country moving forward,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

The legislation funds roughly 8,000 more detention beds than last year’s bill, a provision House Republicans bitterly fought for. Congress funded 34,000 beds through the fall of 2023, but under the stopgap measure currently funding the department, the number of beds rose to about 42,000. Negotiators agreed to keep funding flowing to support that higher number.

It also increases funding for technology at the southern border by about 25 percent.

Lawmakers wrote the measure to comply with the debt and spending deal negotiated last year by the speaker at the time, Kevin McCarthy, and President Biden. It called for keeping spending on domestic programs essentially flat — even as funding for veterans’ programs continues to grow and military spending increases slightly.

That translated, in part, to cuts to the State Department’s budget and foreign aid programs, a frequent target of G.O.P. criticism.

Republicans also successfully inserted a provision in the legislation barring funding from going to UNRWA, the main U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza, through March 2025, which could create a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for the agency. The measure would extend a pause in funding that the White House and lawmakers from both parties supported after Israel accused at least 12 UNRWA employees in January of participating in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel led by Hamas.

“House Republicans made a commitment to strategically increase defense spending, make targeted cuts to overfunded nondefense programs and pull back wasteful spending from previous years,” said Representative Kay Granger, Republican of Texas and the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. “I am proud to say that we have delivered on that promise, and this bill is proof.”

Democrats were able to secure significant increases in spending on child care and education programs, as well as health research, driven by the two top Democratic appropriators, Ms. Murray and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who have spent decades working on initiatives to lift children out of poverty.

The legislation contains a 9 percent increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the nation’s primary child care program, and a $275 million increase for Head Start. It also includes a $120 million increase in funding for cancer research.

“This bipartisan bill ensures our work force is strong, that families are healthy and safe, and that the future of our children is secure,” Ms. DeLauro said.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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