The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for legislation spearheaded by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to fund the government until early next year, wiping out the possibility that Congress will vote on another massive omnibus funding package before Christmas.
The bipartisan vote was 87-11, with 10 Republicans and one Democrat — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — voting in opposition.
Senate and House conservatives pledged they would do everything in their power to avoid having to consider another omnibus spending package right before Christmas and New Year’s, something that has become a Washington tradition.
Johnson’s two-step continuing resolution, which he unveiled last weekend, would do that by funding two tranches of government programs until Jan. 19 and Feb. 2.
As a result, lawmakers won’t face the usual end-of-year brinksmanship and the threat of a government shutdown right before the Christmas recess.
But House conservatives led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the Freedom Caucus, did not get the steep spending cuts they wanted attached to the stopgap measure, which will freeze government funding at current levels for two more months.
The legislation, which President Biden has indicated he will sign, would fund military construction, the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and energy and water programs until Jan. 19.
It would fund all other programs including the Department of Defense and many non-defense social programs until Feb. 2.
The legislation does not include the $105 billion in emergency spending requested by President Biden to fund the war in Ukraine, provide military aid to Israel, fund security measures for the Indo-Pacific, provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, and fund additional security measures along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared passage of Johnson’s funding stopgap a victory.
“I have good news for the American people. This Friday night there will be no government shutdown,” Schumer said, referring to the expiration of government funding at 11:59 pm Friday under current law.
“I am pleased that Speaker Johnson realized he needed Democratic votes to avoid a shutdown. If the Speaker is willing to work with Democrats and resist the siren song of the hard right in the House, then we can avoid shutdowns in the future,” he said.
Senators considered and rejected only one amendment, a proposal sponsored by conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to cut 1 percent of budgetary spending. It lost by a vote of 32-65.
Senate leaders hope to pass a separate emergency foreign aid package later this year but Republicans are insisting that it include major immigration policy reforms to stem the flow of migrants across the Southern border. Democrats have rejected many of the asylum and other policy reforms Republicans are pushing.
Senate passage of the bill was delayed for several hours Wednesday as lawmakers wrangled over the details of a motion to begin a conference negotiation between the two chambers on the annual defense authorization bill. The Senate and House passed their respective defense bills in July.
Wednesday’s vote ends weeks of speculation about how Johnson, who was just elected Speaker on Oct. 25, would avoid a government shutdown given the demands by House conservatives for spending cuts that couldn’t pass the Senate or get Biden’s signature.
Johnson managed to get the bill through the House by relying on Democratic votes. It passed the House 336 to 95, with 209 Democrats and 127 Republicans voting yes. Ninety-three Republicans and two Democrats voted no.
Congressional passage of the funding stopgap avoids the threat of a government shutdown for the rest of this year but sets up a difficult negotiation on the annual spending bills at the start of next year.
House Republicans remain deeply divided on fiscal policy and Johnson as already been forced to pull two appropriations bills from the House floor because of those divisions in his conference.
A group of House conservatives on Wednesday defeated a procedural measure to govern floor consideration of the bill funding Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies. The rebellion forced the chamber to adjourn for the rest of the week.
Still, Schumer, after the Senate vote, called the CR’s passage “a good omen for the future.”
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