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U.S. Senate passes last-minute funding bill to temporarily stave off government shutdown

The threat of a federal government shutdown ended late Saturday, hours before a midnight deadline, as Congress approved a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open and sent the measure to President Joe Biden for signature.

The rushed package cuts aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by increasingly Republican lawmakers, but increases federal disaster aid by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request. The bill funds the government until November 17.

After an uproar in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy abruptly abandoned demands from his right wing for drastic spending cuts and instead relied on Democrats to pass the bill, putting his job at risk. The Senate followed with final passage.

“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy, a California Republican, said before the House vote. “We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep the government open.”

It was a dramatic turn of events in Congress after days of chaos in the House of Representatives pushed the government to the brink of a crippling federal shutdown.

A still image from the video shows the floor of the US Senate with an image of the vote total.
This U.S. Senate video clip shows the 88-9 vote total on the Senate’s temporary funding bill in the U.S. Capitol on Saturday. (AP)

The result ends, for now, with the threat of closure. Without a deal by Sunday, federal workers would face layoffs, more than 2 million active duty and reserve military would be forced to work without pay, and programs and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast would go out of business. facial detachment disorders.

“Americans can breathe easy,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York.

The package funds the government at current levels until mid-November in 2023, triggering another potential crisis if they fail to more fully fund the government by then. The package passed the House by a vote of 335-91, with most Republicans and nearly all Democrats supporting it. Senate passage passed by an 88-9 vote.

But the loss of Ukraine’s aid has been devastating for lawmakers from both parties, who have pledged support for President Volodymyr Zelensky since his recent visit to Washington. The Senate bill included $6 billion for Ukraine, and both chambers stalled on Saturday as lawmakers weighed their options.

“The American people deserve better,” New York House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a lengthy speech warning that “extreme” Republicans were putting the shutdown at risk.

Republican invasion

For the House package to pass, McCarthy had to rely on Democrats, as the speaker’s right wing has said it will oppose any short-term funding measure, depriving him of the votes he needs from his slim majority. It’s a move that puts his job at risk amid calls for him to be fired.

After leaving his right wing, McCarthy is almost certain to face an impeachment attempt, although it is far from certain that there will be enough votes to unseat the speaker. A majority of Republicans voted in favor of the package on Saturday, while 90 voted against it.

“If somebody wants to fire me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to fire him. “But I think this country is extremely important.”

The man is seen framed by silhouettes.
On Saturday, the speaker of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, Kevin McCarthy, told reporters. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

The White House was monitoring developments on Capitol Hill, with aides briefing the president, who was spending the weekend in Washington.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has defended aid to Ukraine despite opposition from his ranks, is expected to continue to pursue US support for Kiev in its fight against Russia.

“I have agreed to continue to fight for more economic and security aid to Ukraine,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said before the vote.

A politician is talking to journalists with video recorders in his hand.
US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks to reporters after the Senate’s vote on Saturday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The House’s swift turnaround came Friday when McCarthy’s earlier plan collapsed to pass a Republican-only bill that would have cut spending by up to 30 percent for most government agencies, which the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme.

“Our options are disappearing by the minute,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, a top Republican.

The federal government was heading straight for a shutdown, creating severe uncertainty for federal workers and their dependents in states across America, from troops to border patrol agents, office workers, scientists and others.

The man gives two thumbs up.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praises Capitol Hill on Saturday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Families relying on Head Start for children, food assistance and countless other programs large and small faced possible cuts or outright closures. Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers will be working without pay at airports, but travelers may experience delays in renewing U.S. passports or other travel documents.

McCarthy’s earlier plan to keep the government open collapsed on Friday amid opposition from 21 hard-right factions, despite drastic spending cuts for many agencies of nearly 30 percent and tougher border security provisions.

The White House has shelved McCarthy’s offers to meet with Biden after the speaker walked away from a debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set the budget floor.

Catering to his hard-right wing, McCarthy has made numerous concessions, including a return to spending limits that conservatives demanded back in January as part of a deal to help him become House speaker.

But that wasn’t enough, as the right-wing party insisted that the House follow regular rules and debate and approve the 12 separate spending bills needed to fund government agencies, which usually takes months.

McCarthy’s top Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, has warned he will file a motion to call a vote to remove the speaker.

Some Republican advocates, including Gaetz, are allies of former President Donald Trump, who is Biden’s main challenger in the 2024 race. Trump encouraged Republicans to vigorously fight for their priorities and even “shut it down.”

In an early closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, several House Republicans, especially those facing tough re-election next year, urged their colleagues to find a way to avert a shutdown.

“We all have a responsibility to lead and govern,” said Rep. Mike Lawler, Republican of New York.

The lone House Democrat to vote against the package, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, co-chairman of the House Ukraine Affairs Committee, called it a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Putin sympathizers everywhere.” He said: “Ukraine’s defense comes from our national interests.”

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