In a surprise turnabout following several days when a shutdown seemed all but inevitable, Congress acted swiftly Saturday to avert a government funding gap and push Washington’s spending fights until later this fall.
After one last delay Saturday evening over funding for Ukraine, the final vote came in the Senate with 3 hours to go before a midnight deadline. The overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 88-9 sends the measure to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
“I have very good news for the country,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, “The government will remain open.”
Business leaders have been worried about the economic damage that could follow a protracted shutdown, with some quickly celebrating the news.
Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten issued a statement Saturday quickly after the final vote saying “we thank Members of Congress for working together to prevent a shutdown and encourage the House and Senate to pass a long-term spending measure as soon as possible.”
The breakthrough came Saturday morning when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy abruptly changed course and offered a bill with bipartisan appeal Saturday afternoon. The 71-page measure passed the House by an overwhelming 335-91 vote with 90 Republicans and 1 Democrat voting no.
“I tried every possible way” to negotiate with far-right Republicans, McCarthy said during a press conference Saturday adding that in the end “I wanted to be part of a conservative group that gets things done.”
President Biden praised the bill soon after final passage was assured and is expected to sign it as soon as possible, meaning the bill is all but certain to be enacted before any economic costs from a shutdown would begin to mount starting Monday morning.
“It’s a relief and good news that we will not have a government shutdown; it shouldn’t have been this complicated,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, in a statement.
“The challenge now is to ensure that we don’t do this all over again in six weeks,” she added.
Margaret Spellings, the president and CEO of the Bipartisan Policy Center, added in her own statement that “yet another budget crisis that would have inflicted pain and uncertainty on American households and the economy has been averted with bipartisan passage of a short-term funding deal.”
The last second bill also appears set to avert a potential double whammy for the aviation industry. It will stop both a shutdown – which could have led to longer security lines by forcing TSA agents to work without pay – as well as avoiding a lapse in authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that was also looming this weekend.
The last-minute bill includes text to delay a shutdown and also temporarily re-authorizes the FAA for even longer, through the end of the year, to allow lawmakers more time to work on both issues.
The leaders of the House Transportation Committee – Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) issued a statement saying the deal was ”vital to ensuring the safe and efficient operation of America’s aviation system” but underlining that a long term authorization for the FAA would also be needed.
The bill doesn’t include any additional money for Ukraine — an important sticking point in recent weeks for House Republicans —but does include $16 billion for disaster relief efforts. FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund had already been running low and was set to be disrupted further in places like Florida (following a recent hurricane) and Maui (following wildfires) by the shutdown.
“Senate Republicans remain committed to helping our friends on the front lines,” House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday evening, adding “I am confident the Senate will pass further urgent assistance to Ukraine later this year.”
McCarthy also dropped efforts to cut government spending for now— with Saturday’s measure continuing funding at current levels —as well as GOP efforts to enact border provisions as part of any deal.
But even as economic observers breathed a sigh of relief that one threat to the economy is now off the table, early signs are that the spending battles are all but certain to rear up again near Thanksgiving when a government shutdown may again become a threat on November 17.
Between now and then, McCarthy also appears likely to face a challenge to his speakership from at least some of the Republicans who voted against his last-second move to bipartisanship.
One of the no votes on the bill was Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) who accused McCarthy of caving to Democrats, adding “Should he remain Speaker of the House?”
“Are we sure Hakeem Jeffries is not the speaker?” added another GOP no vote, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R.-Mont.) in reference to the Democratic leader.
“If somebody wants to remove [me] because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy shot back.
This post has been updated.
Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.
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