Biden signs bill to avoid partial government shutdown

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By KEVIN FREKING
Associated press

WASHINGTON (AP) – With just a few hours to spare, President Joe Biden on Thursday night signed a law that would avoid a partial federal shutdown and keep the government funded until December 3. Congress passed the bill earlier Thursday.

Back-to-back Senate and then House votes have averted one crisis, but delays in another continue as political parties scramble over how to raise the government’s borrowing limit before the United States risks a potentially catastrophic fault.

The House approved the short-term funding measure by a vote of 254-175 shortly after going through the Senate by a vote of 65-35. A large majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against. The legislation was needed for the government to continue to function after the current budget year ended at midnight on Thursday. Passage will give legislators more time to develop the spending measures that will fund federal agencies and the programs they administer.

“There is so much more to do,” Biden said in a statement after the signing. “But passing this bill reminds us that bipartisan work is possible and it gives us time to spend longer term funding to keep our government running and serving the American people.”

The work to keep the government open and operational served as the backdrop during a chaotic day for Democrats as they struggled to get Biden’s top national priorities to the finish line, including a bill $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure that risks stagnating in the House.

“It is a beacon of hope as we carry out many other activities,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.

With their energy focused on Biden’s agenda, Democrats backed down from a confrontation over the debt limit in the government funding bill, deciding to decouple the borrowing limit at the insistence of Republicans. If that cap is not raised by Oct. 18, the United States is likely to face a financial crisis and economic recession, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Republicans say Democrats have the votes to raise the debt ceiling themselves, and Kentucky Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is insisting they do so.

The short-term spending legislation will also provide about $ 28.6 billion in disaster relief for those recovering from Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters. Some $ 10 billion of this money will help farmers cover crop losses due to drought, forest fires and hurricanes. An additional $ 6.3 billion will help support the resettlement of Afghan evacuees from the 20-year war between the United States and the Taliban.

“It’s a good result, I’m happy we finished,” said Schumer. “With so much going on in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to stop.”

Once the government is funded, albeit temporarily, Democrats will turn their full attention to the need to raise the federal borrowing ceiling, which now stands at $ 28.4 trillion.

The United States has never defaulted on its debts in the modern age and historically both sides have voted to increase the limit. Democrats have joined the Republican majority in the Senate three times under President Donald Trump. This time, Democrats wanted to address both priorities in one bill, but Senate Republicans blocked that effort on Monday.

Increasing or suspending the debt limit allows the federal government to pay off obligations already incurred. It does not authorize new spending. McConnell argued that Democrats should adopt a debt limit extension with the same budget tools they use to try to push through a $ 3.5 trillion effort to expand social safety net programs and fight against climate change. He reiterated the warning when the Senate opened on Thursday, even as Democrats called the option “not launched.”

“We are able to finance the government today because the majority have accepted reality. The same will have to happen on the debt limit next week, ”McConnell said.

House Democrats passed a stand-alone bill Wednesday night that would suspend the debt ceiling until December 2022. Schumer has said he will take the measure to the Senate, but it is almost certain the bill will be blocked by a Republican filibuster.

Arguments in both houses on the debt ceiling followed similar themes.

“You’re more interested in punishing Democrats than preserving our credit and that’s something I really have a hard time understanding,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass ., to Republicans. “The idea of ​​not paying the bills just because we don’t like (Biden’s) policies is the wrong way to go.”

Steadfast, Republicans have argued that Democrats have chosen to advance their political priorities on their own and are therefore responsible for raising the debt limit themselves.

“As long as the Democratic majority continues to insist on spending money hand in hand, Republicans will refuse to help them raise the debt ceiling,” said Representative Tom Cole, R-Okla.

The Treasury has taken steps to preserve liquidity, but once depleted, it will be forced to rely on incoming income to pay its obligations. This would likely mean delays in payments to Social Security recipients, veterans, and government officials, including military personnel. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank, predicts that the federal government would be unable to meet about 40% of the payments due in the weeks that follow.

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Associated Press writer Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.


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