In a dramatic turn of events on Saturday, efforts to prevent a US government shutdown received a significant boost as Democrats overwhelmingly backed a last-minute Republican measure. This proposal aims to keep federal funding in place for 45 days, albeit with a freeze on aid to Ukraine.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy presented the stopgap proposal just hours before the midnight deadline, which, if not met, would have resulted in millions of federal employees and military personnel either being sent home or required to work without pay. The House of Representatives adopted the measure with a vote of 335-91.
However, for the proposal to become law, it still requires approval from the Democrat-controlled Senate. In a last-minute effort at the US Capitol, House Republicans have hastily approved a temporary funding bill to extend the operation of the federal government for an additional 45 days, just hours before the impending deadline.
The move marks a significant shift, as Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy had initially pushed for a purely partisan bill, as demanded by hardline members of his party. However, McCarthy ultimately opted for a more bipartisan approach, avoiding potential turmoil and preserving his role as the Speaker of the House.
With the clock ticking down, the US government faces the looming threat of its fourth partial shutdown in the past decade, set to commence at 0401 GMT if the Senate does not follow suit and pass the bill, followed by the signature of US President Joe Biden.
The stopgap funding bill, successfully passed in the House of Representatives, has now been forwarded to the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority. The House's vote count of 335-91 in favor of the bill revealed more Democrats supporting it than their Republican counterparts.
Earlier on the same day, McCarthy had announced his intention to propose a 45-day continuing resolution (CR) plan, commonly referred to as a stopgap bill, designed to maintain the functioning of federal agencies until a new funding bill could be agreed upon by Congress.
The passage of this bill is being characterised as a victory for the Democrats, with 209 Democrats rallying behind it, in contrast to 126 Republicans who supported it. "Extreme MAGA Republicans have lost; the American people have won," declared top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries in anticipation of the Senate's vote.
Notably, the bill includes provisions for natural disaster relief funding as per the White House's request but does not allocate the $6 billion in funding intended for Ukraine.
President Joe Biden reacts
In a statement released shortly after the Senate vote, President Joe Biden said: "Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans."
"This bill ensures that active-duty troops will continue to get paid, travelers will be spared airport delays, millions of women and children will continue to have access to vital nutrition assistance, and so much more. This is good news for the American people," he added.
"We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted," Biden said, adding he fully expect the Speaker will keep "his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment".