Congress passes bill to avert partial government shutdown

Politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — With only hours to spare, Congress passed legislation that would avoid a partial federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Dec. 3, and sent the bill to President Joe Biden.

The back-to-back votes by the Senate and then the House will help avert one crisis, but just delay another as the political parties dig in on a dispute over how to raise the government’s borrowing cap before the United States risks a potentially catastrophic default.

The House approved the short-term funding measure by a 254-175 vote not long after Senate passage in a 65-35 vote. A large majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against it. The legislation was needed to keep the government running once the current budget year ended at midnight Thursday. Passage will buy lawmakers more time to craft the spending measures that will fund federal agencies and the programs they administer.

The work to keep the government open and running served as the backdrop during a chaotic day for Democrats as they struggled to get Biden’s top domestic priorities over the finish line, including a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill at risk of stalling in the House.

With their energy focused on Biden’s agenda, Democrats backed down from a showdown over the debt limit in the government funding bill, deciding to uncouple the borrowing ceiling at the insistence of Republicans. If that cap is not raised by Oct. 18, the U.S. probably will face a financial crisis and economic recession, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Republicans say Democrats have the votes to raise the debt limit on their own, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is insisting they do so.

The short-term spending legislation will also provide about $28.6 billion in disaster relief for those recovering from Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters, and help support Afghanistan evacuees from the 20-year war between the U.S. and the Taliban.

“This is a good outcome, one I’m happy we are getting done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “With so many things to take care of in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to grind to a halt.”

Once the government is funded, albeit temporarily, Democrats will turn their full attention to the need to raise the limit on federal borrowing, which now stands at $28.4 trillion.

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