By Lawrence Wilson
The House of Representatives approved a stopgap funding bill that will avert a government shutdown at midnight tonight if adopted by the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden.
The bill extends federal funding at the current rate for 45 days. It also includes money for disaster relief and a reauthorization of FAA funding. While the bill continues existing support for Ukraine, it does not include additional funding for that war effort, which Democrats and some Republicans favor.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) pleaded for more time to consider the 70-page continuing resolution (CR), which he said was presented just minutes ahead of a proposed vote and mere hours ahead of a potential government shutdown.
Yet 209 Democrats, including Mr. Jeffries, joined the effort to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill under a suspension of House rules..
Yet enough Democrats joined the effort to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill under a suspension of House rules. The final tally was 335–91.
Republicans successfully argued that the bill represented a fair effort to keep the government operating at full capacity beyond midnight tonight when the fiscal year expires and the government’s spending authority with it.
Ninety Republicans opposed the bill, more than quadruple the 21 who joined Democrats in defeating a more conservative CR presented by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) the previous day.
That left Republican leaders scrambling to come up with some measure that would avoid a government shutdown on Republican terms.
Mr. McCarthy celebrated the passage of the CR but acknowledged that it was not the solution he had preferred.
“Would I have wanted the bill we put on the floor yesterday, that would secure our border and cut wasteful spending? Yes, I did. But I had some members in our own conference that wouldn’t vote for that,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters shortly after the vote.
“At the end of the day, we kept the government open, kept paying our troops to finish the job we have to get done,” he added.
While Mr. McCarthy criticized Republicans who failed to support the original CR, he offered an olive branch to the divided conference saying, “The one thing I’ve learned is get things done and bring others along. I welcome those 21 back in, and we would get a better and more conservative bill if they would simply vote with us.”
Meanwhile, the Senate is set to vote on its own version of a CR. That bill would extend funding at current levels through Nov. 17 while adding $6.15 billion in funding for the war effort in Ukraine and $5.99 billion for domestic disaster relief.
Many House Republicans expressed frustration over the failure of the previous GOP-proposed CR, which included an 8 percent overall cut in non-defense discretionary spending and a package of border security enhancements.
Republicans who opposed that measure believed that any CR would inevitably lead to additional delays in creating a full-year spending plan, which would result in the necessity of a last-minute catchall bill presented for an up-or-down vote—with no time to debate or offer amendments.
“There’s no such thing as a “clean” CR,” Mr. Good said. “To keep in place the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer policies for another 30 days or 45 days, to keep the spending levels that are bankrupting the country, that is only going to lead to another CR or an omnibus. I predict if we pass a CR we will stop passing our spending bills.”
Mr. Jeffries claimed victory in the passage of the 45-day CR, saying: “The American people have won. The extreme MAGA Republicans have lost. It was a victory for the American people and a complete and total surrender by right-wing extremists, who throughout the year have tried to hijack the Congress.
“That is what the spending agreement that passed the House today has accomplished.”
Moves to Senate
The onus now shifts to the Senate to either accept the House’s terms or pass its own bill and attempt to reconcile differences in cooperation with the House.
The House bill came after weeks of infighting among House Republicans over spending levels and the appropriations process itself.
An original Republican CR was presented on Sept. 17 by a coalition of Republicans from the Main Street and Freedom Caucuses. That bill would have extended funding through Oct. 31 with an overall 8 percent reduction in non-defense discretionary spending and a package of additional border security measures.
Many Republicans saw that CR as a win for conservatives that would allow another month to finish the 12 required appropriations bills.
Realizing that some fiscal conservatives were opposed to any form of CR, Mr. McCarthy chose to advance four appropriations bills as a good-faith effort to show that House leadership would stick with regular order throughout the process.
Three of the four bills were passed on Sept. 28, leading Mr. McCarthy to bring the CR to the House floor on Sept. 29. It failed as 21 holdouts insisted that Republicans should instead focus on completing the appropriations process, even if that meant a temporary suspension of non-essential government services.
However, most of the Republican conference were eager to avoid the blame for a shutdown, which would include forcing members of the military and many other federal employees to go without pay for the duration.
The CR passed today, which includes neither spending cuts nor border security measures, comes as a setback to Mr. McCarthy and the Republican conference, which has enjoyed a series of legislative victories earlier this year, including passage of the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which forced President Biden to negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which resulted from those negotiations.
The setback also imperils Mr. McCarthy’s position as House speaker. A single member of the House can present a motion to vacate the chair, and at least one member has directly threatened to do so if the speaker passed legislation with the help of Democrats.
Asked about the prospect of calling for such a vote, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) a vocal opponent of Mr. McCarthy, told reporters on Sept. 29, “We’re going to have to deal with the fact that we’ve had failed leadership, and that failed leadership has put us under the gun and may cause some disruption. That cannot escape some accountability.”
However, Mr. McCarthy appears to have the support of most House Republicans. So while only a handful of Republicans, together with Democrats, could conceivably remove Mr. McCarthy, it’s not clear that they could replace him with a candidate of their choosing.
“As far as I’m concerned, when you’re working with Democrats to try to vacate the speaker, you’re a joke,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) told NTD, sister media outlet of The Epoch Times, on Sept. 29.
Ryusuke Abe contributed to this report.