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Congress passes short-term funding extension to avert government shutdown

Johnson's plan to avert partial shutdown
Johnson unveils plan to avert partial government shutdown 02:20

Washington — The Senate followed the House in passing a temporary extension of government funding on Thursday, sending the measure to President Biden's desk after a bipartisan vote that once again averts a government shutdown. 

The Senate voted 77 to 13 to approve the short-term extension that funds some government agencies for another week, through March 8, and others until March 22. The House passed the bill earlier in the day by a vote of 320 to 99. The president has said he will sign the legislation.

"I'm happy to inform the American people there will be no government shutdown on Friday," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said. "Now let us finish the job of funding the government so we don't have to do this again." 

Congressional leaders announced a deal to keep the government open Wednesday evening, saying they "are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government." 

Six of the 12 annual spending bills will now need to be passed before the end of next week. The leaders said the one-week extension was necessary to allow the appropriations committees "adequate time to execute on this deal in principle" and give lawmakers time to review the package's text. 

Lawmakers will then have two more weeks to pass the other six spending bills to fully fund the government until September.

Without the extension, funding for transportation, housing, agriculture and veterans programs would have expired at 12 a.m. Saturday. Funding for other agencies, including the Pentagon, would have lapsed on March 8.

President Biden, in a statement, called the extension, "good news for the American people. But I want to be clear: this is a short-term fix — not a long-term solution.

"In the days ahead, Congress must do its job and pass full-year funding bills that deliver for the American people," Mr. Biden said. "And House Republicans must act on the bipartisan National Security Supplemental, which already passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and would pass the House if it was brought to a vote."

A never-ending story

The government has repeatedly been on the brink of a shutdown since the end of last September. Unable to pass the annual appropriations bills before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, Congress has relied on short-term extensions, known as continuing resolutions, to keep the government operating. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, proposed the latest plan after an "intense" meeting at the White House on Tuesday with the president, vice president and other congressional leaders. Lawmakers left the meeting optimistic about averting a shutdown before the deadline at the end of this week. 

The new deadlines raise the pressure on the House to pass spending legislation amid Republican divisions. Negotiations over spending have been prolonged by House conservatives demanding steep cuts and policy changes while refusing to support any bipartisan legislation. 

Johnson, overseeing a narrow House majority, has therefore had to rely on Democrats to pass the continuing resolutions that have funded the government in recent months, a dynamic that continued in Thursday's vote.

House Freedom Caucus chairman Bob Good, a Virginia Republican, criticized Johnson's handling of the bill, calling it "a failure" and "terrible decision." Good seemed resigned to the appropriations bills ultimately passing if they're brought up for a vote. 

"There's really no ability to block bills that are passed under suspension that the Democrats want to pass," he said, referring to a procedure that limits debate and requires two-thirds of members to vote to pass a bill.

When asked whether he has faith in Johnson's leadership, Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican who has been outspoken throughout the spending fight, said "this is not the call I would have made."

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, said Congress should move on from this year's spending fight by passing a one-year continuing resolution to fund the government through September. He wants lawmakers to shift their focus to approving next year's appropriations bills "and get that one right." 

"We're seven months away from the next deadline," Massie said. "We've gone so far into this. We're five months into this." 

Jaala Brown and Nikole Killion contributed reporting. 

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