The US Senate took the risk of an impending partial government shutdown off the table on Wednesday as it passed a stopgap spending bill and sent it to President Joe Biden to sign into law before a weekend deadline.
The 87-11 vote marked the end of this year’s third financial stand-off in Congress that saw lawmakers bring Washington to the brink of defaulting on its more than US$31 trillion in debt this spring and twice within days of a partial shutdown that would have interrupted pay for about 4 million federal workers.
The last near-miss with shutdown led to the October 3 ouster of Republican US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy that left the chamber leaderless for three weeks.
But lawmakers have bought themselves just a little more than two months’ breathing room. The Democratic-majority Senate and Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ next deadline is January 19, just days after the Iowa caucuses signal the start of the 2024 presidential campaign season.
“No drama, no delay, no government shutdown,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said prior to the vote.
McCarthy’s successor, Speaker Mike Johnson, produced a stopgap funding bill that drew broad bipartisan support, a rarity in modern US politics.
Democrats said they were happy it stuck to spending levels that had been set in a May agreement with Biden and did not include poison-pill provisions on abortion and other hot-button social issues.
Republicans said they were eager to avoid the risk of a shutdown, which would have closed national parks and disrupted everything from scientific research to financial regulation.
But hardline members of Johnson’s 221-213 Republican majority voiced anger at the compromise, saying they would try to rein in federal spending again when current funding expires.
“The speaker has now 10 days to work it out and get Republicans to actually stand up and fight when we get back,” congressman Chip Roy, a prominent hardliner, said as House lawmakers left Washington for a Thanksgiving holiday break. “We expect that fight when we get back.”
The legislation would extend funding for military construction, veterans benefits, transportation, housing, urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and energy and water programmes through January 19.
Funding for all other federal operations – including defence – would expire on February 2.
The repeated fights over providing funding to keep the government operating – Congress’ most essential function – have prevented lawmakers from acting on other proposals, including Biden’s request for US$106 billion in aid for Israel, Ukraine and US border security.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse