Senate Voting on Bill to Avert US Government Shutdown

Congress is on track to avoid a federal government shutdown with the Senate preparing to vote on a bipartisan, short-term spending measure with just hours left

(Bloomberg) — Congress is on track to avoid a federal government shutdown with the Senate preparing to vote on a bipartisan, short-term spending measure with just hours left 

The proposal would keep the US government open until Nov. 17 and has $16 billion in disaster funding — but does not include aid for Ukraine, a key priority for President Joe Biden and lawmakers in both parties.

“Democrats and Republicans have come to agreement and the government will remain open,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote. “We will have avoided a shutdown.” 

The proposal from Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy is before the Senate after passing the House earlier Saturday in a dramatic vote that saw him rely on Democratic votes to secure passage. The House vote was 335-91, with 209 Democrats voting with 126 Republicans to support the measure.

A Senate vote could happen before or shortly after midnight provided there are no procedural hurdles.

“There is growing hope that we may actually avoid a shutdown,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. 

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the House-passed bill would keep the government open at higher levels than the Senate’s version, noting it includes disaster relief and authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration, which expires Oct. 1. 

Link to BGOV Bill Summary: H.R. 5860, Stopgap Funding Through Nov. 17

Federal agencies in recent days had begun planning for a shutdown with Congress deadlocked. Even a short-term shutdown would see many federal employees furloughed and others forced to continue working without pay as agencies halted many of their services. A prolonged shutdown, though, would pose deeper threats to the economy, potentially jeopardizing hopes for a soft landing and coming with financial markets already anxious over high interest rates and US voters worried about the economy.

Ukraine Aid

The lack of Ukraine aid presents a new challenge for the White House and lawmakers who back continued assistance to Kyiv. The Biden administration, the White House official said, expects Ukraine aid to be handled in another bill. 

Democratic New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen told reporters the upper chamber would work on a Ukraine supplemental aid package in the coming weeks. 

“Every day that goes by without this aid Russia gets closer to being capable to winning this war,” said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

A Senate bill with funding for Ukraine had strong bipartisan support before the latest House maneuver. But McConnell, one of the strongest advocates for Kyiv, said Republicans there would block a vote on their chamber’s bill to let the House do its work. McCarthy has told Republicans that Ukraine can withstand 45 days without new US aid. 

Read more: House Omits Ukraine Funding for Now in Measure to Avert Shutdown

Hardliner Mutiny

McCarthy defied hardliners in his own party with his proposal, which the speaker’s allies rushed to fast-track using a procedure that relied heavily on Democratic votes. 

The bill threatens to provoke hardliner Matt Gaetz, McCarthy’s most ardent detractor, to move to oust the speaker. The House adjourned until Monday, preventing Gaetz from offering a so-called motion to vacate immediately after the bill. 

“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy told reporters earlier Saturday. 

The measure doesn’t include ultra-conservatives’ demands for deep spending cuts and border policies anathema to Democrats.

“I want to keep government open while we finish our job to secure the border,” McCarthy told reporters after a closed-door GOP meeting that lasted an hour and a half. 

Read More: A Shutdown Poses Political Risks Across the Washington Spectrum

North Carolina Representative Greg Murphy emerged from the meeting saying some Republicans have a “pathological” dislike of McCarthy. 

“They’re not willing to put that aside and do what’s best for the country,” Murphy said of the hardliners.  “It’s pretty selfish, to be honest.” 

Read more: The Shutdown Seven: Here Are Lawmakers to Watch in Negotiations

–With assistance from Billy House and Akayla Gardner.

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