Senate Votes, President Signs, Shutdown Averted
WASHINGTON — With just over three hours to spare, the Senate last night passed a bipartisan bill to avert a government shutdown, and President Joe Biden signed it just before the midnight deadline.
The measure will fund the federal government for 45 days, or until Nov. 17. In a blow to the White House and congressional Democrats, it does not include aid to Ukraine, but does increase federal disaster assistance by $16 billion.
The final vote in the Senate was 88-9, with 46 Democrats, 39 Republicans and three Independents voting for the stopgap spending bill, and nine Republicans voting no.
Earlier in the day, the Republican-controlled House had approved the measure by a vote of 335-91, with 90 Republicans and one Democrat voting against it.
Late last night Biden said the House and Senate had prevented “an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hard-working Americans.
“But I want to be clear,” the president added, “we should never have been in this position in the first place.
Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis. For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed,” Biden said.
The temporary end to the shutdown threat came after an about-face from McCarthy, R-Calif., who had failed the past two weeks to pass a continuing resolution in his chamber due to unyielding resistance from a small band of House Freedom Republicans and their allies.
After trying in vain to appease dissenters in his own party, McCarthy unveiled a new proposal during a closed-door meeting with GOP members Saturday morning. The new plan stripped aid for Ukraine, but it also did away with the sweeping cuts to discretionary spending the hardliners had been seeking — meaning the bill would only pass with Democratic help.
Democrats, meanwhile, eyed the 71-page proposal warily, and made a motion to adjourn to give themselves time to read it.
Though the Democrats ultimately embraced the stopgap spending plan, hardline Republicans in the House, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said McCarthy had signed his political death warrant by siding with those on the other side of the aisle.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning, Gaetz said he will file a motion to vacate the seat against the speaker this week.
“I think we need to rip off the band aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” he said.
Almost simultaneously he conceded the Democrats in the chamber would likely resist the move, meaning McCarthy would remain speaker for the foreseeable future.
Prior to the Senate vote last night, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor to rally Republican support for the spending plan.
“As I’ve said for weeks, the clearest path forward has been to pass a straightforward, short-term funding extension that gives us time to continue a number of important discussions about outstanding priorities,” McConnell said.
The leader listed those priorities as: securing supplemental relief for victims of natural disasters; restoring “security and sanity” at the southern border; putting stronger restraints on reckless spending; and supplying Ukraine “with even more of the lethal assistance” it needs to repel Russia’s invasion.
“On that particular point … Senate Republicans remain committed to helping our friends on the front lines, to investing more heavily in the American strength that reinforces our allies, and to deterring our top strategic adversary, China,” McConnell said, adding, “I am confident the Senate will pass further urgent assistance to Ukraine later this year.”
“Passing this measure, and keeping the lights on, will allow us to return our attention to making headway on the full-year appropriations our colleagues have been working on literally for months. And it will give us the flexibility to meet urgent supplemental priorities, both at home and abroad,” he said.
Following the vote in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said the American people could breathe a sigh of relief after “a day full of twists and turns.”
“Democrats have said from the start that the only solution for avoiding a shutdown is bipartisanship, and we are glad that Speaker McCarthy has finally heeded our message,” Schumer said from the floor of the Senate.
“In the end more Democrats supported this bill in the House than Republicans, proving bipartisanship was the best answer all along,” he added.
Where McConnell enumerated priorities going forward, Schumer talked about all the provisions that were cut from the continuing resolution in the House.
“We avoided all of the extreme, nasty, and harmful cuts MAGA Republicans wanted. No 30% percent cuts across the board. No 30% cuts to things like health care, to the Social Security Administration, to the nutrition programs for kids. Full reauthorization of the F.A.A. until Dec. 31,” he said.
“And the poison-pill amendments, of which there were scores, MAGA-inspired riders were all removed from the bill. After trying to take our government hostage, MAGA Republicans won nothing,” Schumer said.
“The Senate showed that bipartisanship was the only way. And the same will be true again in 45 days,” he added.
Later, Schumer and McConnell, joined by Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Susan Collins, R-Maine, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Chair Chris Coons, D-Del., and Subcommittee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. released a joint statement on the Senate’s continued, bipartisan commitment to supporting Ukraine:
They said while they welcome the agreement passed Saturday night, it “leaves a number of urgent priorities outstanding.
“In the coming weeks, we expect the Senate will work to ensure the U.S. government continues to provide critical and sustained security and economic support for Ukraine,” they wrote.
“We support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its sovereignty against Putin’s brazen aggression, and we join a strong bipartisan majority of our colleagues in this essential work. With the eyes of our partners, allies, and adversaries upon us, we keenly understand the importance of American leadership and are committed to strengthening it from Europe to the Indo-Pacific,” the joint statement said.
President Biden also commented on continuing aid for Ukraine.
“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,” the president said.