Government Shutdown Averted With Little Time To Spare As Biden Signs Funding Before Midnight

The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday as President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.

Saturday, September 30th 2023, 10:51 pm

By: CBS News, Associated Press


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The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday as President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.

The package drops aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers, but increases federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request. The bill funds government until Nov. 17.

About three hours before a midnight deadline, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill Saturday evening to keep the government funded for 45 days, on a vote of 88 to 9, just before a government shutdown was to go into effect. 

The bill now goes to President Biden's desk for his signature. 

No Democratic senators voted against the measure. 

The House had passed the measure that afternoon, after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced in the morning that he would try to push the short-term funding bill through the House with Democratic help — a move that could keep the government open but would put his speakership at risk.

The bill ultimately won support from more Democrats than Republicans in the House, with 90 Republicans voting no. Just one Democrat voted against the measure. 

The House passed a bill 335-91 Saturday afternoon to fund the government for 45 days, hours before a government shutdown was to go into effect. 

The bill House Speaker Kevin McCarthy put to a vote ultimately won support from more Democrats than Republicans. Ninety Republicans voted no, and just a single Democrat voted against the short-term funding measure. 

McCarthy was forced to rely on Democrats for passage because the speaker's hard-right flank said it would oppose any short-term measure. The speaker set up a process for voting requiring a two-thirds supermajority, about 290 votes in the 435-member House for passage. Republicans hold a 221-212 majority, with two vacancies.

The bill will now go to the Senate for a vote.

McCarthy announced Saturday morning he would try to push the short-term funding bill through the House with Democratic help — a move that could keep government open but would put his speakership at risk.

"The House is going to act so government will not shut down," McCarthy said, after an early-morning meeting with the Republican conference Saturday. "We will put a clean funding, stopgap on the floor to keep government open for 45 days for the House and Senate to get their work done." 

He told reporters that it would give lawmakers more time to finish work on individual appropriations bills. The measure does not contain funding for Ukraine that was sought by Democrats but opposed by many Republicans. It does, however, include spending for disaster relief.

"Knowing what transpired through the summer — the disasters in Florida, the horrendous fire in Hawaii and also disasters in California and Vermont — we will put the supplemental portion that the president asks for in disaster there, too," McCarthy said.

The White House welcomed passage of the House bill, noting that it "keeps the government open at a higher funding levels than the Senate bill and includes disaster relief and FAA authorization," a White House official said. The official, noting McCarthy's support for Ukraine funding, said the White House expects he "will bring a separate bill to the floor shortly."

Republican Sen. Mike Rounds, of South Dakota, also said Ukrainians "should not take anything negative" from the vote Saturday, and added, "we can do border security and a supplemental on Ukraine in a connected type of approach somewhere in a very short time period, whether that's over the next two days, three days, 10 days."

Before the House vote, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, initially said Democrats needed more time to review the bill and criticized Republicans for "rushing it at the 11th hour, when in fact, just yesterday, extreme MAGA Republicans voted on a bill that would slash spending by 30%."

To give Democrats more time to read the bill, Jeffries spoke for nearly an hour on the House floor, using his "magic minute" — a privilege that allows House leaders to speak for a virtually unlimited time.

The Senate had been working on advancing its own bill that was initially supported by Democrats and Republicans and would fund the government through Nov. 17.

But once the House plan emerged, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his members to vote no on advancing the Senate version to see whether the House could get its temporary funding measure passed. 

"It looks like there may be a bipartisan agreement coming from the House," McConnell said. "So, I'm fairly confident that most of my members, our members are going to vote against cloture — not necessarily because they're opposed to the underlying bill, but see what the House can do on a bipartisan basis and then bring it over to us. So, under these circumstances, I'm recommending a no vote, even though I very much want to avoid a government shutdown."

The sudden House action would fund government at current 2023 levels for 45 days and provide money for U.S. disaster relief.

With no deal in place before Sunday, federal workers face furloughs, more than 2 million active-duty and reserve military troops will work without pay and programs and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast will begin to face shutdown disruptions.

  1. A history of government shutdowns: The 14 times funding has lapsed since 1980

Relying on Democratic votes and leaving his right-flank behind is something that the hard-right lawmakers have warned would risk McCarthy's job as speaker. They are almost certain to quickly file a motion to try to remove McCarthy from that office, though it is not at all certain there would be enough votes to topple the speaker.

"If somebody wants to remove because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try," McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. "But I think this country is too important."

The quick pivot to Saturday's bill came after the collapse Friday of McCarthy's earlier plan to pass a Republican-only bill with steep spending cuts up to 30% to most government agencies that the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme.

  1. Who does a government shutdown affect most? Here's what happens to the agencies Americans rely on.

The federal government has been heading straight into a shutdown that poses grave uncertainty for federal workers in states all across America and the people who depend on them — from troops to border control agents to office workers, scientists and others.

Families that rely on Head Start for children, food benefits and countless other programs large and small would be confronting potential interruptions or outright closures. At the airports, Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers would be expected to work without pay, but travelers could face delays in updating their U.S. passports or other travel documents.

An earlier McCarthy plan to keep the government open collapsed Friday due to opposition from a faction of 21 hard-right holdouts despite steep spending cuts of nearly 30% to many agencies and severe border security provisions.

Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy had returned to the spending limits the conservatives demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker.

Some of the Republican holdouts, including Gaetz, are allies of former President Donald Trump, who is Biden's chief rival in the 2024 race. Trump has been encouraging the Republicans to fight hard for their priorities and even to "shut it down."

Keshia Butts, Ellis Kim, Willie James Inman and Alan He contributed to this report.

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