Senate sends funding bill to Biden’s desk, averting a government shutdown

Senate sends funding bill to Biden’s desk, averting a government shutdown

The Senate on Wednesday night passed a stopgap funding bill, punting the GOP’s spending fight and the threat of a government shutdown until after the holidays.

The bipartisan vote was 87-11.

“Because of bipartisan cooperation, we are keeping the government open without any poison pills or harmful cuts to vital programs — a great outcome for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said before the vote.

The short-term bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, cleared the House a day earlier on a lopsided 336-95 vote, with all but two of the no votes coming from Republicans. The funding bill next heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his expected signature.

“If the speaker is willing to work with Democrats and resist the siren song of the hard right in the House,” Schumer continued, “then we can avoid shutdowns in the future and finish the work of funding the government.”

Without the CR, government funding would have run out late Friday night. New Speaker Mike Johnson’s staggered or “laddered” CR funds part of the government — including the Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs departments — through Jan. 19, and funds the Defense Department and remaining parts of the government through Feb. 2.

Passing a two-part CR that funds the government into the New Year will prevent Congress from adopting yet another massive omnibus spending package right before Christmas, Johnson argued.

The CR is “clean,” with no spending cuts or contentious policy provisions that would alienate Democrats. It also does not include a supplemental package covering things like aid for Israel and Ukraine, humanitarian assistance or border security, leaving those issues for later in the year.

The CR is designed to buy more time for House Republicans to pass appropriations bills and for House and Senate negotiators to reach a deal on funding. The House has passed seven of the twelve annual appropriations bills that fund the government for a full fiscal year, while the Senate has passed three.

But as recently as Wednesday, House Republicans were struggling to advance their individual appropriations bills over intraparty divisions over amendments, raising questions about whether the House will be able to complete its spending bills before the next funding deadlines.

Johnson and his leadership team sent House lawmakers home for the Thanksgiving holiday early on Wednesday after two appropriations bills ran into trouble.

“We’re demanding of our leadership: Put the right bills on the floor with the right policy in them at the right levels, and then we’ll vote for them,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chairman of the far-right Freedom Caucus who led the opposition. “But don’t act like you’re actually trying to get to a correct spending level, and don’t act like you’re actually going to fight on these issues when you plan to fail.”

Still, the brand-new speaker brushed off questions about whether he’s frustrated by the setbacks.

“No, we’re not frustrated. This is part of the process. We’re working toward consensus,” Johnson said after votes were called off. “I’ve been on the job less than three weeks. I think we’ve had a great run.”

Asked whether House Democrats’ morale was high amid the GOP infighting, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., recounted that his weekly report to the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday was short and sweet.

“No spending cuts, no right-wing extreme policy changes, no government shutdown, no votes tomorrow, Happy Thanksgiving,” he said. “That is a type of report that, when you are able to give it, means morale is very high.”

Did Jeffries have any advice for the new speaker? a reporter followed up.

“Good luck!” Jeffries quipped.

— Frank Thorp V and Garrett Haake contributed.