Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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House Passes Stopgap Bill to Delay Government Shutdown, Awaits Senate Approval

Bipartisan House vote on stopgap bill masks deeper ideological divides over federal spending agenda.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images.

In a crucial move to prevent a looming government shutdown, the House of Representatives passed a stopgap bill on Thursday afternoon, effectively postponing Congress’ impending shutdown deadlines to later in March. This strategic decision allows lawmakers additional time to finalize half of the annual funding measures, which are expected to be addressed next week.

The bill now awaits approval in the Senate, where leaders are optimistic about securing a unanimous agreement to expedite its passage by Thursday night. Such a timely approval is critical to averting a partial government shutdown, which would ensue if Congress fails to act before the clock strikes midnight on Saturday, setting new funding deadlines for March 8 and March 22.

To ensure the passage of the crucial stopgap measure before the impending shutdown, unanimous consent in the Senate is essential. The stakes are high, as several Republicans are leveraging their votes for consideration of other issues. Notably, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), is advocating for a separate vote on his proposal to offer compensation to individuals diagnosed with cancer due to exposure to nuclear waste in the St. Louis region, a legacy of the federal government’s clandestine Manhattan Project.

Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in a brief interview Thursday afternoon that he expected “several” amendment votes and final passage later in the evening. The Kentucky Republican is asking for a vote on an amendment that would prevent the Federal Reserve from buying the debt of U.S. states, and other GOP lawmakers are seeking votes on changes to the funding package, he said.

In the House, the resolution successfully passed with a vote count of 320-99, receiving support from 207 Democrats and 113 Republicans. To advance the continuing resolution, House leaders required a two-thirds majority, a stipulation introduced by Speaker Johnson. This approach was specifically chosen to navigate around the challenges posed by members who have previously blocked legislation introduced under the simple majority rule, using it as a form of protest against the leadership’s decisions.

Earlier this week, a significant advancement was made with the announcement of an agreement on six annual funding measures. The current stopgap funding strategy is a tactical move, intentionally postponing the debate on the more divisive bills, such as those related to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, until late March. This deliberate timing aims to mitigate the often polarized disagreements on fiscal and policy matters by setting aside the most contentious issues for later discussion.

The temporary measure marks the fourth instance of Congress approving an interim funding solution since the fiscal year began in October. This development comes despite Johnson’s explicit declaration to House Republicans in December, stating, “I do not intend to have the House consider any further short-term extensions,” following the approval of a provisional measure in November. Reversing this stance and reaching a bipartisan spending deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last month has, as expected, sparked significant discontent among House conservatives.