Congress averts shutdown, sends 9-week funding patch to Biden’s desk

The roughly two-month spending bill was “plenty” of time to work out a government funding agreement, said Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Republican appropriator in the upper chamber. “But it’s not a question of time. It’s a question of bringing people together, ”he said, noting that bipartisan talks on an annual spending package have yet to begin in earnest.

Shelby pledged to push for more military funding than the $ 715 billion Biden proposed, and the proposal to add that money is already backed by some moderate Democrats in Congress.

Top Democrats are well aware that in averting one fiscal cliff they have lost leverage to avert another – a national debt default expected in less than 20 days.

“With so many things happening here in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to stall. But of course we still have more to do, ”said Schumer on Thursday. “Just as our Republican colleagues recognize that a government shutdown would be catastrophic if they realized that a sovereign debt default would be worse.”

After Senate Republicans followed their threats this week to block action on the debt ceiling, Democratic leaders decided to forego an immediate resolution to the looming debt crisis to prevent the government from closing.

“A shutdown is not something anyone wants,” spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi repeated on Thursday, adding, “We didn’t think we’d ever have one.”

In addition to ditching the language to lift the debt ceiling, the Democrats also dropped $ 1 billion on Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system before the House passed the measure last week. While progressive Democrats were initially opposed to this funding, some Republicans have also criticized the fact that the new spending would have increased the deficit instead of being offset by savings or new revenue.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that cutting missile defense funding was “seriously disappointing” and spread the blame across the gang.

“To be honest, it amazes me that defense aid to our ally Israel has become a sensitive issue for the political left,” said McConnell on the ground.

Before the Senate passed the makeshift bill, the Chamber voted on three Republican amendments to appease the minority party. A proposal from Kansas Senator Roger Marshall that would have prevented federal funds from being used to enforce Covid-19 vaccine mandates fell 50 to 50.

The Senate also voted on a “no-budget, no pay” amendment from Indiana Senator Mike Braun that would have denied lawmakers their paychecks until they approve a budget for a new fiscal year and fully fund the government at an updated level. This proposal was suspended by 60 votes and fell by 53 to 47 points.

While the Spending Act expands funding for most federal agencies and programs at current levels, lawmakers approved a few exceptions that Biden requested earlier this month. The bill budgeted $ 6.3 billion for the relocation of Afghan allies evacuated during the U.S. withdrawal and nearly $ 29 billion for communities recovering from major disasters like Hurricane Ida, which happened four years ago Weeks hit the Gulf Coast and the East Coast.

Many Senate Republicans have debated the language in the funding bill that would grant Afghan refugees REAL IDs, the federal ID cards mandated by Congress after September 11, 2001, to terrorist attacks to increase the security of ID checks at airports and federal facilities. So the Senate voted on an amendment from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton that would have revoked that ID authorization.

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) noted that removing the Real ID exemption would not prevent Afghan refugees from applying for driver’s licenses or the enhanced federal ID cards. It would just maintain the same “normal, reasonable security process” that other non-citizens go through, he said.

Cotton’s proposal, which fell 50-50, would also have required the Biden administration to report to Congress on how many Afghan refugees are receiving benefits such as resettlement assistance and instructed the Department of Homeland Security to interview Afghan asylum seekers within 15 days of their application. instead of within 45 days.

Senate Allocation Chairperson Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Urged Senators to reject all three GOP changes, arguing that if one were approved there would be a shutdown.

“With just 13 hours ahead of the government shutdown, any of these changes could be jeopardized,” Leahy said on the ground. “They are controversial and could make it difficult to get through the house.”

Now that the Democrats have approved the stopgap financing solution, they will have to react quickly to the debt ceiling or risk an economically devastating default on the more than $ 28 trillion the country has borrowed in the next few weeks.

Schumer said on Thursday that he plans to call a vote as early as next week on the bill passed in the House of Representatives that would suspend the debt ceiling until December next year. The New York Democrats appeal to the GOP Senators to forego a legislative filibuster of this measure so that the Democrats can pass it with a simple majority.

Republican senators have already turned down this plea twice this week.

“So far we are not asking the Republicans to vote with us to solve the debt crisis that they created,” Schumer said. “If you oppose this measure and want to bring us closer to the financial catastrophe, you can write yourself in the history books as a senator that would make the country insolvent for the first time.”

Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.

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