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Senate passes short-term funding bill to avert government shutdown

<span>Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader.</span><span>Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP</span>
Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader.Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

The Senate has passed a short-term funding bill following a House vote on Thursday afternoon, narrowly averting a partial government shutdown that was due to occur this weekend.

Ahead of the Senate vote, the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, addressed the chamber floor, saying that he saw “no reason this should take a very long time”.

“This agreement is proof that when … bipartisanship is prioritized, when getting things done for the American people takes a high priority, good things can happen, even in divided government.”

The temporary extension funds the departments of agriculture, transportation, interior and others through 8 March. It funds the Pentagon, homeland security, health and state through 22 March.

“These bills will adhere to the Fiscal Responsibility Act discretionary spending limits and January’s top-line spending agreement,” congressional leaders said on Wednesday.

The extension comes after congressional leaders said there was agreement on six of the 12 annual spending bills and plans for them to be signed before March 8, before they would face another partial shutdown.

The short term extension bill is on its way to Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it ahead of its Saturday shutdown deadline.

Meeting with congressional leaders earlier this week alongside Kamala Harris, Biden said that a government shutdown would “significantly” damage the economy.

At the end of the process Congress, is set to approve more than $1.6tn in spending for the fiscal year that began October – roughly in line with the previous fiscal year. That’s the amount that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with the White House last year before eight disgruntled Republican lawmakers joined with Democrats a few months later and voted to oust him from the position.

Some of the House’s most conservative members wanted deeper cuts for non-defense programs than that agreement allowed through its spending caps. They also sought an array of policy changes that Democrats opposed. They were hoping the prospect of a shutdown could leverage more concessions.

“Last I checked, the Republicans actually have a majority in the House of Representatives, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at our checkbook because we are all too willing to continue the policy choices of Joe Biden and the spending levels of Nancy Pelosi,” said Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican.

But Chuck Fleischmann, a fellow Republican from Tennessee, countered before the vote that shutdowns are damaging and encouraged lawmakers to vote for the short-term extension. “I want the American people to know Mr Speaker that this negotiation has been difficult, but to close the government down at a time like this would hurt people who should not be hurt,” Fleischmann said.

The renewed focus on this year’s spending bills doesn’t include the separate, $95.3bn aid package that the Senate approved for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan earlier this month, with much of that money being spent in the US to replenish America’s military arsenal. The bill also contained about $9bn in humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and others caught in war zones.