With only hours to spare, President Joe Biden signed legislation to avoid a partial federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Dec. 3. Congress had passed the bill earlier Thursday.
The back-to-back votes by the Senate and then the House averted one crisis but delays 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.
“There’s so much more to do,” Biden said in a statement after the signing. “But the passage of this bill reminds us that bipartisan work is possible and it gives us time to pass longer-term funding to keep our government running and delivering for the American people.”
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.
“It is a glimmer of hope as we go through many, many other activities,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. 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 financial 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. Some $10 billion of that money will help farmers cover crop losses from drought, wildfires, and hurricanes. An additional $6.3 billion will help support the resettlement of Afghanistan evacuees from the 20-year-war between the United States and the Taliban.
(With inputs from AP)