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Senate sends stopgap funding bill to Biden, avoiding government shutdown

Congress on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill to fund federal agencies through early next year, avoiding an immediate shutdown crisis but leaving room for a longer-term deal on government spending as difficult as ever.

The Senate voted 87-11 to approve the temporary funding and send it to President Biden, who is expected to sign it, just days before the midnight Friday deadline. The measure was approved by the House on Tuesday with near unanimous support from Democrats and over opposition from nearly half of House Republicans.

While avoiding near-term disaster, Congress will have just months to reach a government-wide spending deal. And a Republican mutiny in the House Wednesday over the measure showed how difficult it will be for Republican Party leaders to agree with Democrats on a more sustainable plan.

The bill, known as a continuing resolution, sets two deadlines in early 2024, with money for some agencies running out on Jan. 19 and the rest on Feb. 2. It maintains funding at current levels and contains no political conditions – both aspects. This pleased Democrats and enraged far-right Republicans who demanded drastic budget cuts and conservative policy demands.

“This Friday night, there will be no government shutdown,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader. “Through bipartisan cooperation, we are keeping government open without poison pills or harmful cuts to vital programs – a tremendous outcome for the American people.”

The tight schedule and upcoming recess leave lawmakers little room to resolve substantial differences between the two chambers and also between House Republicans. The GOP’s internal divisions were on display again Wednesday when rank-and-file Republicans blocked consideration of a separate spending bill.

Protesting President Mike Johnson’s decision a day earlier to rely on Democrats to pass stopgap spending legislation, members of the House Freedom Caucus joined with Democrats to prevent legislation funding the Commerce departments from passing. and Justice and scientific agencies be presented. The mutiny prompted leaders to abruptly adjourn the House and send lawmakers home for Thanksgiving.

It’s the latest spending bill failure under Mr. Johnson’s leadership, and it reflects anger among hard-line House Republicans who see the temporary funding measure neglecting their priorities.

“The swamp won, and the speaker should know it,” said Rep. Chip Roy, Republican of Texas and one of the Republicans who voted against the stopgap spending bill on Tuesday and blocked the funding measure on Wednesday. .

Mr. Roy and 18 other Republicans managed to thwart consideration of the spending bill by breaking with their party to oppose the normally standard procedural step to set the rules for debate. The tactic was once considered unthinkable, but the far right has used it repeatedly this year to challenge its leaders.

In preventing a shutdown, Mr. Johnson essentially took the same bipartisan path that cost Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California the presidency last month. Mr. Roy and his allies have said they have no immediate plans to challenge Mr. Johnson’s hold on the gavel, but they reserve the right to continue raising procedural hurdles if he does not accede to their requests.

The backlash from the Freedom Caucus came even though Mr. Johnson had begged far-right lawmakers to extend a grace period for him to advance the short-term funding bill and to give him more time to trying to advance the House’s hefty spending bills.

“We’ve had enough,” said Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “We send a shot across the bow. We do this in good faith. We want these bills to evolve. We want good and fair policy, but we are no longer going to be part of the theater of failure.”

A bloc of politically vulnerable New York Republicans also voted against the procedural step, saying the underlying bill contained cuts to law enforcement funding that they could not support.

The legislation included a $1.2 billion cut to the Justice Department, including a $400 million cut to the FBI budget that the White House said would result in the loss of 1,850 positions needed to fight the war. against gun violence and other crimes.

Rep. Nick LaLota, Republican of New York, described the move as part of a campaign by more mainstream Republicans to oppose far-right proposals.

“People in more purple neighborhoods like mine have had enough,” he said. “I am exercising my right to defend myself politically.”

The House mutiny underscored how remote is the prospect of Congress reaching a spending deal by early February. If Mr. Johnson agrees to the deep budget cuts and policy changes demanded by far-right Republicans, he could lose the support of the more traditional members of his conference and be unable to pass them. And even if he managed to pass such measures in the House, they would almost certainly have died in the Democratic-led Senate.

If Congress fails to pass its spending bills, an automatic 1 percent across-the-board cut would be imposed in April, an outcome that members of both parties say they want to avoid.

Kayla Guo And Luke Broadwater reports contributed.

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