Congress Averts Government Shutdown Just Hours Before Deadline

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After days of uncertainty and last-minute scrambling, Congress passed a short-term funding bill on Saturday, narrowly averting a disruptive government shutdown only hours before the midnight deadline. President Biden quickly signed the stopgap measure into law.

The House approved the bipartisan spending extension in an evening vote, overcoming resistance from some conservatives. The Senate then swiftly passed the bill and sent it to the White House. Biden signed the legislation Saturday night, preventing a shutdown of federal agencies at the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st.

“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.

Temporary Funding Until November 17th

The temporary spending measure will keep the government running until November 17th. It includes $18.8 billion in disaster relief funding but lacks additional military aid for Ukraine or money for border security sought by Republicans.

The bill also extends authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration, avoiding partial closure of the nation’s airspace. The FAA would have needed to start shutting down aviation operations if funding lapsed.

With the stopgap passed, Congress bought itself more time to negotiate full-year spending bills and divisive policy issues. Lawmakers faced criticism for waiting until the final hours to ensure basic government operations.

Weekend of Chaos Preceded Deal

The House vote capped a tumultuous weekend on Capitol Hill. On Friday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and GOP leaders failed to pass their own partisan funding bill amid conservative defections.

That set off a chaotic Saturday as Republicans considered their options before McCarthy agreed to put the bipartisan Senate-passed bill on the House floor. It passed 254–175, with strong support from both parties.

McCarthy Defiant Amid Backlash

The bipartisan deal angered some hardliners who wanted a bill with more Republican priorities. McCarthy may face a vote to remove him as Speaker for working with Democrats, but he remained defiant.

“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” McCarthy told reporters after the vote. He argued the deal showed he can effectively govern the divided House.

With the government now funded into mid-November, Congress will shift focus to passing full-year appropriations bills. But significant policy differences mean negotiations could again go down to the wire.

Why a Shutdown Loomed

The scramble to avert a shutdown came because Congress has been unable to agree on full-year spending legislation since Biden took office.

The government has instead relied on stopgap measures to buy more time for negotiations. Temporary funding was set to expire at 12:01 am on October 1st without congressional action.

A funding lapse would have suspended many non-essential federal services, from issuing business permits and passports to paying Medicare bills and veterans benefits. National parks and the Smithsonian museums would close. Staffing shortages would amplify airport delays as TSA employees stayed home.

Economic and National Security Risks

A lengthier funding gap could also dampen economic growth and confidence while weakening national security.

In past shutdowns, hundreds of thousands of federal employees were furloughed. While essential services like law enforcement remain operational, most agencies scale back dramatically.

Analysts warned that a shutdown could further disadvantage the U.S. against adversaries like China and Russia. Interrupted services, fewer resources, and lower staff morale undermine America’s global standing.

What’s Next for Spending Talks

With crisis averted for now, lawmakers must still negotiate 12 annual spending bills funding federal agencies for fiscal 2023. Deep divides between the GOP-led House and Democratic Senate mean resolution by November 17th is unlikely.

One major sticking point involves spending levels. Biden wants $1.7 trillion in discretionary funding, while McCarthy proposed $1.5 trillion, seeking cuts to social programs and climate initiatives.

Other contentious issues include abortion access restrictions, military aid for Ukraine, immigration enforcement, and disaster relief funds. Bridging those gaps in weeks will prove challenging.

Unless Congress approves full-year appropriations bills, further stopgap measures into 2023 may be needed to avoid another high-stakes showdown over keeping the government’s lights on.

Consequences of Shutdowns

Government shutdowns create significant disruptions across the country, though their full impacts take time to materialize:

  • Hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed without pay
  • National parks, museums, and monuments closed
  • Passport and visa application processing halted
  • Payment delays for Medicare and veterans benefits
  • Flood and weather forecasting limited
  • FDA food safety inspections slowed
  • IRS tax transcripts and audits suspended
  • Housing loans, permits, financial disclosures stalled
  • Research activities at NASA, NIH, NSF interrupted

While shutdowns don’t directly cut most citizens’ benefits like Social Security, the effects quickly cascade through the economy. Within weeks, fallout would be felt by millions of Americans.

With federal operations funded into November, policymakers have additional time to negotiate solutions to divisive issues. But substantial differences remain, meaning further brinkmanship may lie ahead.

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