US avoids government shutdown after Senate vote

'No drama, no delay, no government shutdown,' US Senate Majority Leader says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrates after the Senate signed a stopgap bill to avoid a government shutdown. EPA
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The US Senate took the risk of a partial government shutdown off the table on Wednesday night when it passed a stopgap spending bill and sent it to President Joe Biden to sign into law before a weekend deadline.

The 87-11 vote marked the end of this year's third fiscal stand-off in Congress in which lawmakers brought Washington to the brink of defaulting on its more than $31 trillion in debt this spring and twice within days of a partial shutdown that would have interrupted pay for about four million federal workers.

The last near-miss with a shutdown led to the October 3 removal of Republican US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that left the chamber leaderless for three weeks.

But Congress has bought itself a little more than two months' breathing room. The Democratic-majority Senate and Republican-controlled House of Representatives' next deadline is January 19, days after the Iowa caucuses signal the start of the 2024 presidential campaign season.

“No drama, no delay, no government shutdown,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote.

Mr McCarthy's successor, Speaker Mike Johnson, produced a stopgap funding bill that drew broad bipartisan support, a rarity in modern US politics. Democrats said they were happy it stuck to spending levels that had been set in a May agreement with Mr Biden and did not include poison-pill provisions on abortion and other hot-button social issues.

Republicans said they were eager to avoid the risk of a shutdown, which would have closed national parks and disrupted everything from scientific research to financial regulation.

But hardline members of Mr Johnson's 221-213 Republican majority voiced anger over the compromise, saying they would try to rein in federal spending again when current funding expires.

What is a US government shutdown?

What is a US government shutdown?

The legislation will extend funding for military construction, veterans benefits, transport, housing, urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and energy and water programmes through January 19.

Funding for all other federal operations – including defence – will expire on February 2.

The repeated fights over providing funding to keep the government operating – Congress's most essential function – have prevented members from acting on other proposals, including Mr Biden's request for $106 billion in aid for Israel, Ukraine and US border security.

Updated: November 16, 2023, 6:24 PM