(The Hill) — The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown before the Friday night deadline, sending the bill to President Biden’s office for signature.
Senators voted 65 to 27 on the bill, which funds the government until March 11 at current levels. The bill now returns to Biden, who is expected to sign it, after passing the House last week.
The bill, known as the Continuing Resolution (CR), gives lawmakers about three more weeks to try to hammer out a mammoth deal that would fund the government until the end of September.
The Senate’s passage of the funding bill comes after days of drama as senators tried to secure a deal that would pave the way for the legislation. Due to Senate rules and the looming deadline, they needed buy-in from all 100 members to expedite the bill to meet the deadline.
Senators spent days haggling over which amendments would get votes. In the end, they settled on three: two related to Biden’s vaccine mandates and a third from Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) on balancing the budget.
Another amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would block federal funding for schools and daycares that require coronavirus vaccination has failed, as well as one from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and other senators from the GOP to defund vaccine requirements for medical workers, military personnel, federal employees, and contractors for the duration of the RC.
Despite finally agreeing on which amendments to include, the Senate was stalled for hours on Thursday due to one fundamental issue: math.
The chamber started the day with two absent GOP senators, Senator Richard Burr (NC) and Lindsey Graham (SC), as well as three Democratic senators: Senator Ben Ray Lujan (California), Dianne Feinstein (California) and Mark Kelly . (Arizona.).
That meant that had the Senate voted on the amendments Thursday, or even Wednesday when Graham was the only missing GOP senator, the vaccine proposals would have had enough support to be added to the government’s funding bill.
Any changes to the CR require him to return to the House, which is in the midst of a two-week recess and where Democrats would likely be reluctant to quickly pass a bill that overturns Biden’s rules on vaccines.
Cruz and Lee have sought to take advantage of Democratic absences, urging their colleagues to stay in town in order to win votes on vaccine amendments. Cruz said “NO REPUBLICAN SENATOR should leave town this afternoon.”
“Schumer is freaking out right now because Dems WILL LOSE THE VOTE on my amendment and the @SenMikeLee amendment to BLOCK VACCINE MANDATES AND BLOCK CHILD MANDATES. The only way the Dems will win the vote is for the Rs to leave town,” he tweeted.
But GOP leaders have indicated they believe the standoff will eventually be resolved because enough Republican senators — eager to begin their week-long hiatus out of Washington, DC — will leave. In addition to Burr and Graham, GOP Sens. Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and Mitt Romney (Utah) missed votes on vaccine mandate changes.
Sen. John Thune (SD), the No. 2 Republican senator, predicted that the calculations to pass the CR without amendments would eventually work due to “natural attrition.”
“There’s the Munich security conference and these people are leaving later this afternoon. So, you know, at some point it’s going to get resolved eventually, if it’s not resolved some other way,” he said.
Senators also negotiated for days over a bill by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) to block federal funding from going to crack pipes and other consumer paraphernalia. drug. Rubio has warned he will block the CR’s rapid passage unless there is an agreement to get a vote on his bill.
The issue arose last week following reports from conservative media that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was providing pipes for smoking crack cocaine as part of a harm reduction program. The Biden administration dismissed the report as incorrect, and they have also been verified by organizations such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) initially had a hold on the CR but dropped it earlier this week after “receiving a written response from the HHS Secretary pledging that no taxpayer funding will be used to fund crack pipes”.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) blocked the speedy passage of Rubio’s bill, arguing it went further than crack pipes, which captured public attention.
But Rubio said on Thursday he was not withholding CR on his bill.
“It has nothing to do with a continued resolution. The reason we’re not voting on the continued resolution is that there are a lot of people who aren’t here,” Rubio said. “That’s why I took the opportunity to submit my invoice.”
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