Congress Averts U.S. Government Shutdown With 11th Hour Short-Term Funding Bill

Three hours before a potential government shutdown, the House and Senate did what no one thought possible just 24 hours prior—approve a last-minute short-term spending bill on Saturday that provides $16 billion for disaster relief and prevents millions of federal employees from being furloughed, at least until Nov. 17.

The 45-day stopgap funding package, hastily put together by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), will keep federal agencies open, but does not provide aid to Ukraine.

After weeks of escalating rhetoric by the House Republican Freedom Caucus, approximately twenty hard-liners who revel in challenging the GOP leadership,  McCarthy pivoted to House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and the Democrats to get the bill passed. Consequently, the GOP speaker is expected to be confronted by his party when the House returns next week.

“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy said before the House vote, “We’re going to be the adults in the room. And we’re going to keep government open.”

The House bill, which funds the government at current 2023 levels, was approved by a wide margin: 335-91, with almost all Democrats and most Republicans supporting the legislation. The Senate approval was a lopsided 88-9 vote in support, according to CSPAN.

“Americans can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer following the vote.

The loss of aid to Ukraine was difficult to overcome for some lawmakers, including Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), who delayed the Senate vote until receiving promises of “more economic and security aid” for the war-torn nation by Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

After voting to approve the measure, Bennet told reporters, “I think it was really, really important for us to send a signal to the world. We’re gonna continue to work in a bipartisan way to get Ukraine the funds.”

“I know important moments are like this, for the United States, to lead the rest of the world,” Bennet said, noting his mother was born in Poland in 1938 and survived the Holocaust. “We can’t fail,” he told the Associated Press

President Joe Biden praised the legislation as “preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans.”

With a focus on McCarthy and the House Republicans, he said, “But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, [we] reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis.”

Biden added that while there is no new funding for Ukraine in the stopgap measure, “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.”

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