Congress Approves Funding to Avert US Government Shutdown

(Bloomberg) -- Congress passed a temporary spending bill to avert a partial US government shutdown this weekend, sending the legislation to the White House, where President Joe Biden plans to sign it.

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The interim measure would finance some US agencies — set to run out of money after Friday — through March 1 and others through March 8.

The House voted 314 to 108 Thursday to pass the short-term funding just hours after the Senate approved it. Nearly half of House Republicans voted against the measure while Democrats overwhelmingly supported it.

House Speaker Mike Johnson rebuffed a last-minute effort by ultraconservative Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus to scuttle the legislation by adding demands on immigration policy changes anathema to many Democrats.

“Americans did not give Republicans a majority in the House to continue Nancy Pelosi’s inflationary spending and Joe Biden’s failed policies,” the Freedom Caucus said in a statement just before the vote opposing the bill.

Some Republican hardliners are angered that the speaker went back on a promise he made in November not to allow more temporary extensions of funding and bucked ultraconservatives who want to use the threat of a government shutdown to pressure Biden to accept border policy changes.

Johnson instead held up emergency war funds for Ukraine as leverage in border talks, leading to an impasse on Ukraine aid.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would sign the temporary measure but urged Congress to settle on long-term funding to keep open the government.

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“Instead of wasting more time on partisan appropriations bills that violate the budget agreement two-thirds of them voted for last spring, House Republicans must finally do their job and work across the aisle to pass full-year funding bills,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement emailed to reporters shortly after the House vote.

The short-term package is meant to give lawmakers time to complete negotiations on annual funding for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Yet six weeks of funding to March 1 may not be enough time to work out remaining differences. The House is scheduled to be on break for three of those weeks, raising prospects for yet another short-term spending bill.

“I think that’s where we’re headed unless something dramatic happens,” Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said Thursday.

Leaders in both parties have agreed on an effective $1.66 trillion spending cap for the year but still are negotiating how to distribute the money among government departments and programs. They also have to resolve conservative demands to attach policies like immigration and abortion restrictions to the bills and funding for lawmakers’ individual pet projects.

If the government is operating under interim funding on April 30, automatic across-the-board spending cuts would be triggered under provisions in last June’s debt ceiling compromise. That threat could spur lawmakers to finally settle 2024 spending.

--With assistance from Maeve Sheehey.

(Updates with partisan breakdown of vote, White House statement, beginning with third paragraph)

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