‘This is good news’: Biden signs stopgap funding bill to avert US shutdown

President signed the bill hours after it was approved in a bipartisan vote, but admonished Republicans for the delay

Joe Biden signed a bill on Saturday to extend government funding for 45 days, averting a federal shutdown with just an hour to spare.

Biden praised Congress for approving the bill with bipartisan support in both chambers, even as he criticised House Republicans for refusing to collaborate with Democrats until the last possible minute.

“Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans,” Biden said in a statement.

“This is good news for the American people. But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place.”

The bill-signing came hours after the Senate approved the proposal in a bipartisan vote of 88 to nine, easily surpassing the 60-vote threshold needed for passage. Nine senators, all Republicans, opposed it.

“It’s been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief – there will be no shutdown,” the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said after the vote. “Our bipartisanship made this possible and showed the House that they had to act.”

On Saturday afternoon, the proposal passed the House in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 335 to 91, with 209 Democrats joining 126 Republicans in supporting the legislation. Ninety House Republicans opposed the bill.

The bill – unveiled by the House Republican speaker, Kevin McCarthy, on Saturday morning – will extend funding through to 17 November and allocate $16bn for disaster aid. The bill does not include additional funding for Ukraine, which has become a source of outrage among hard-right lawmakers.

Despite that omission, Biden indicated that McCarthy would soon take up a supplemental appropriations bill to provide additional financial assistance to America’s allies in Ukraine.

“We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said. “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.”

McCarthy introduced the stopgap bill under suspension of the rules, meaning he needed the support of two-thirds of House members to advance the proposal. Although House Democrats also criticised the bill’s lack of Ukraine funding, they ultimately provided McCarthy with the support needed to get the legislation across the finish line.

Speaking after the vote, McCarthy expressed disappointment that a large share of his conference opposed the bill, but said the intransigence displayed by hard-right Republicans left him with no other option.

“It is very clear that I tried every possible way, listening to every single person in the conference,” McCarthy told reporters. “If you have members in your conference that won’t let you vote for appropriation bills, [don’t] want an omnibus and won’t vote for a stopgap measure, so the only answer is to shut down and not pay our troops: I don’t want to be a part of that team.”

Prior to the House vote, the Senate had planned to hold a vote on Saturday on a separate stopgap spending bill, which also would have kept the government open until 17 November and provided some funding for Ukraine’s war efforts as well as disaster relief aid.

But the Senate instead reoriented their efforts toward advancing McCarthy’s bill after the proposal passed the House. Although Senate Democrats voiced displeasure about the lack of Ukraine funding, the House bill represented their only option to prevent a shutdown.

The rare weekend session came one day after the House failed to pass McCarthy’s initial stopgap bill, which would have extended government funding for another month while enacting steep spending cuts on most federal agencies.

McCarthy’s proposal was rejected by 21 House Republicans, as hard-right members continued to insist they would not support a continuing resolution. Hard-right Republicans warned they might move to oust the speaker if he teamed up with Democrats to keep the government open, a viable threat when it only takes one member to introduce a motion to vacate the chair. Despite the criticism from his hard-right colleagues, McCarthy downplayed threats to his speakership on Saturday.

“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” McCarthy told reporters. “There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what is best for this country.”

The White House had warned that a shutdown would force hundreds of thousands of government workers to go without pay, jeopardize access to vital nutritional programs and delay disaster relief projects.


Joan E Greve

The GuardianTramp

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