US House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown – Eleventh-hour efforts to avert a US government shutdown took a significant stride on Saturday when Democrats overwhelmingly supported a last-minute Republican proposal. This measure aims to sustain federal funding for 45 days, albeit with a freeze on aid to Ukraine.
The House of Representatives approved the stopgap plan with a vote of 335-91, a move initiated by Speaker Kevin McCarthy shortly before the impending midnight shutdown deadline. This deadline threatened to send millions of federal employees and military personnel home without pay or require them to work without compensation. However, it’s important to note that the proposal must still gain approval from the Democrat-controlled Senate.
According to CNN, a statement from an administration official suggests that the White House is inclined to endorse the bill to ensure the government remains operational, with the anticipation of subsequently reinstating aid to Ukraine. The government shutdown dilemma primarily arose due to a minority of staunch Republicans who had opposed temporary funding proposals, contrary to their party’s leadership, as they advocated for substantial spending reductions.
The agreement reached on Saturday might place McCarthy’s position as Speaker in jeopardy, as the group of hardliners had previously warned of a potential bid to oust him from his role if a stopgap measure, which they opposed but passed with Democratic support, went through. Pitching his last-gasp proposal, McCarthy had appealed to both Republicans and Democrats to “put your partisanship away” and dismissed the threat to his job.
“If somebody wants to remove (me) because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” he said. The proposed plan aims to maintain current government funding levels, omitting the spending cuts endorsed by hardliners that Democrats had staunchly opposed. However, the absence of aid for Ukraine remains a significant issue. Supporting Ukraine with arms and funding in its struggle against the Russian invasion has been a central policy priority for President Joe Biden’s administration.
Although the stopgap measure is a short-term solution, it does cast doubt on the political feasibility of reinstating substantial financial aid. The Democrat-controlled Senate had been gearing up to vote on its own temporary funding bill later on Saturday, one that did include provisions for Ukraine’s financial support. “This is enough to keep the government open, and I’m not going to shut the government down over foreign aid,” one House Democrat, Jared Moskowitz, told CNN, while making clear he was a strong supporter of Ukraine aid.
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The suspension of all non-essential government services was scheduled to commence after midnight (0400 GMT Sunday), leading to an immediate delay in the payment of salaries for numerous federal employees and military personnel. In the event of a shutdown, many national parks, including renowned ones like Yosemite and Yellowstone in the west and Florida’s Everglades, would be closed to the public starting Sunday.
Additionally, despite the resumption of student loan payments in October, officials indicated on Friday that key operations at the Federal Student Aid office would continue for a few weeks. However, if the shutdown were to extend for an extended period, it could lead to more significant disruptions, impacting the broader economy.