US government avoids shutdown with bipartisan support for short-term funding agreement.
Funding was secured until November 17th, signed into law by President Biden.
Disappointment for Democrats as no additional aid for Ukraine is included.
The US government has managed to avoid a federal shutdown by reaching a consensus between the House and Senate on a short-term funding agreement.
A bill securing funding until November 17th received strong bipartisan support and was promptly signed into law by President Joe Biden, just moments before the deadline.
Regrettably, the bill does not include any additional aid for Ukraine, which is a disappointment for Democrats who had pushed for this as a critical provision.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, took the unusual step of proposing the bill despite opposition from some members of his party who are more conservative.
The looming threat of a government shutdown, which would have resulted in tens of thousands of federal employees being placed on unpaid furlough and the suspension of various government services, was set to begin at 00:01 ET (04:01 GMT) on Sunday.
However, in a surprising turn of events on Saturday afternoon, McCarthy decided to bring the temporary funding measure to a vote to keep the government operational.
This measure includes funding for addressing natural disasters but does not make significant concessions on spending levels, a key demand from the Republican majority in the House.
The majority of lawmakers were determined to prevent a shutdown, and the bill garnered more support from Democrats than Republicans, despite up to 90 House Republicans voting against it.
This outcome was a setback for a small faction of right-wing Republicans who had obstructed negotiations in the House by insisting on spending cuts and refusing to provide new aid to Ukraine.
Following the House vote, the Senate, which had previously passed its bill that included aid for Ukraine, had no option but to accept the House legislation.
Only nine senators voted against it, all of whom were Republicans.
Mr. McCarthy admitted that the last-minute agreement was not the route he wanted to take, telling reporters that he had “tried to pass the most conservative stopgap measure possible” but “we didn’t have 218 Republicans”.
In a statement released shortly after the Senate vote, President Joe Biden said “extreme House Republicans” had sought to create a “manufactured crisis”, and urged Speaker McCarthy to allow a further funding deal for Ukraine to pass without delay.
He said: “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”
In an unusual move, senior leaders from both parties in the Senate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, issued a joint statement expressing their commitment to ensuring ongoing support for Ukraine in the coming weeks.
This announcement followed a protest by Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado during Saturday’s proceedings.
Senator Bennet, who advocates for increased funding for Ukraine, raised objections due to the absence of guarantees for Ukraine in the agreement.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, Congress has approved approximately $113 billion in military, humanitarian, and economic aid for Ukraine.
President Biden has additionally requested an additional $24 billion in aid.
Government shutdowns occur when both chambers of Congress cannot agree on the roughly 30% of federal spending they must approve before the start of each fiscal year on October 1st.
Given the Republicans’ slim majority in the House and the Democrats’ narrow control of the Senate, any funding measure requires bipartisan support.
Recent attempts to pass spending bills in the House have been obstructed by a group of conservative rebels.
These lawmakers oppose short-term spending measures and advocate for making cuts through long-term spending bills with agency-specific savings, although such bills face limited prospects in the Senate.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was initially hesitant to rely on Democratic votes to pass the short-term bill until the last minute, as this would have upset the hardline conservative members of his party.
This scenario is likely to repeat itself in less than seven weeks, as fundamental disagreements over government spending levels and policies persist among Republicans, Democrats, and even within the Republican ranks.
Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz and other conservative House members face a decision. McCarthy’s decision to depend on Democratic votes to pass the short-term bill was seen as a potential violation of a red line, which could trigger an attempt to remove him from his leadership position through a motion to vacate.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Gaetz mentioned that McCarthy’s speakership was on shaky ground but did not announce any plans to seek McCarthy’s removal as House Speaker.
At his Saturday news conference, Mr. McCarthy challenged those who oppose him to “bring it”, adding: “There has to be an adult in the room.”
The coming days will determine whether Mr. Gaetz and his colleagues were genuinely committed to their threat or if it was merely a bluff.
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