Congress Budget

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., gives a double thumbs-up as the Senate voted to approve a temporary funding bill to keep federal agencies open and avert a government shutdown late Saturday. Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday night as President Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.

The eleventh-hour package approved by Congress earlier Saturday drops aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers. However, it increases federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request.

The bill funds the government until Nov. 17, meaning the reprieve may be short-lived.

After chaotic days of turmoil in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy abruptly abandoned demands for steep spending cuts from his hard-right flank and instead relied on Democrats to pass the bill, at risk to his own job. The Senate followed with final passage, sending the package to the president’s desk and closing a whirlwind day at the Capitol.

All four members of Maine’s delegation – Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King – backed the bill in their respective chambers.

“This is good news for the American people,” Biden said in a statement.


The president added that the United States “cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted” and said he expected McCarthy “will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

It was a sudden head-spinning turn of events in Congress after grueling days in the House pushed the government to the brink of a disruptive federal shutdown.

The outcome ended the threat of a shutdown – for now. But Congress will once again need to fund the government in coming weeks, risking a crisis as views are hardening, particularly among the hard-right lawmakers whose ultra-conservative demands – including huge cuts to many federal programs – were ultimately swept aside this time in favor of a more bipartisan approach.

“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said before the House vote Saturday afternoon. “We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep government open.”

If no deal had been in place before Sunday, federal workers would have faced furloughs, more than 2 million active-duty and reserve military troops would have had to work without pay, and programs and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast would have begun to face shutdown disruptions.

“It has been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief: There will be no government shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.


Congress Budget

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., grins as he leaves the floor after voting to avert a government shutdown Saturday night. With the backing of most members of both parties, the House-approved package was passed by a wide 88-9 margin in the Senate. Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

The package funds government at current 2023 levels until mid-November and also extends other provisions, including for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The package was approved Saturday afternoon by the House 335-91, with most Republicans and all Democrats but one supporting it. Senate passage came later Saturday evening by an 88-9 vote.

But the loss of Ukraine aid was devastating for lawmakers of both parties vowing to support President Volodymyr Zelensky after his recent Washington visit. The original bill included $6 billion for Ukraine, and both chambers came to a standstill Saturday as lawmakers assessed their options.

“The American people deserve better,” said House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, warning in a lengthy floor speech that “extreme” Republicans were risking a shutdown.

For the House package to be approved, McCarthy was forced to rely on Democrats because the speaker’s hard-right flank said it will oppose any short-term funding measure, denying him the votes needed from his slim majority.

After leaving those conservative holdouts behind, McCarthy is almost certain to face a motion in which they try to remove him from his position, though it is not at all certain there would be enough votes to topple him.


“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has championed Ukraine aid despite resistance among his own ranks, is expected to keep pursuing U.S. support for Kyiv in the fight against Russia.

“I have agreed to keep fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine,” McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote.

For a while Saturday night, the Senate vote was stalled when Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., held it up, seeking assurances Ukraine funds would be reconsidered.

“I know important moments are like this, for the United States, to lead the rest of the world,” Bennet said, noting his mother was born in Poland in 1938 and survived the Holocaust. “We can’t fail.”

The House’s quick pivot came after the collapse Friday of McCarthy’s earlier plan to pass a Republican-only bill with steep spending cuts up to 30% to most government agencies and strict border provisions that the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme. A faction of 21 hard-right Republican holdouts opposed it.


“Our options are slipping away every minute,” said one senior Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.

The federal government had been heading straight into a shutdown that posed grave uncertainty for federal workers in states all across America and the people who depend on them – from troops to border control agents to office workers, scientists and others.

Families that rely on Head Start for children, food benefits and countless other programs large and small were confronting potential interruptions or outright closures. At the airports, Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers had been expected to work without pay, but travelers could have faced delays in updating their U.S. passports or other travel documents.

In the days leading up to the bill’s eventual passage, the White House brushed aside McCarthy’s overtures to meet with Biden after the speaker reneged on the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.

Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy had tried to make multiple concessions, including returning to the spending limits the conservatives demanded back in January as part of the deal-making that helped him become speaker.

But it was not enough. The hard right soon insisted the House follow regular rules and debate each of the 12 separate spending bills needed to fund the government agencies, typically a monthslong process.


In the Senate, all nine no votes against the package Saturday came from Republicans.

McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, has warned he will file a motion calling a vote to oust the speaker.

Some of the Republican holdouts, including Gaetz, are allies of former President Donald Trump, who is Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race. Trump had encouraged the Republicans to fight hard for their priorities and even to “shut it down.”

At an early closed-door meeting at the Capitol, several House Republicans, particularly those facing tough reelections next year, urged their colleagues to find a way to prevent a shutdown.

“All of us have a responsibility to lead and to govern,” said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York.

The lone House Democrat to vote against the package, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, called it a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Putin sympathizers everywhere.”

“Protecting Ukraine is in our national interest,” Quigley said.


Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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