Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, is seen at a Judiciary Committee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in June 2020 in Washington.
CNN  — 

Democratic congressional negotiators announced Wednesday that they have reached agreement on a “framework” for government funding for fiscal year 2022.

The development is a major step for an effort by lawmakers to craft and pass a sweeping spending package to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year. Now lawmakers will have to negotiate and agree on the specifics of the spending package and work to pass it ahead of a March 11 deadline.

Government funding is currently set to expire on February 18, but the House voted on Tuesday to pass a stopgap bill to extend funding until March 11, giving negotiators more time to reach a broader deal. The Senate must next take up the short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, before it can be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a statement on Wednesday announcing the agreement that lawmakers have “reached a strong, bipartisan agreement that will allow us to make significant investments in the American people and our communities,” and added, “I look forward to crafting a bill that will receive strong support in both Chambers in the coming weeks.”

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement released along with Leahy’s, “I am pleased that we have reached agreement on a framework, which will allow our subcommittees to get to work finalizing an omnibus,” a reference to a broader spending package.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters later Wednesday afternoon that they had an “understanding” but they “haven’t worked out all the particulars.”

“I believe we’re going to have a good bill,” he said. “I will be happy for defense, and other people are going to be happy for other things, but that’s the nature of a bipartisan agreement.”

“We have made a big step,” he added.

Asked about the issue of parity between defense and nondefense funding, which has been a prominent issue in efforts to reach a deal, Shelby replied, “We won’t have a bill until we have parity.”

There is bipartisan agreement that a broader funding deal is necessary as well as bipartisan concern over the limitations imposed on federal entities if the government is forced to continue operating under stopgap measures, especially at a crucial time for both domestic and foreign policy amid the Covid-19 pandemic and growing fears over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.