House passes stopgap bill to prevent shutdown
The House on Tuesday passed a stopgap measure to extend federal government funding until March 11 to prevent a shutdown next week while negotiations over a longer-term package remain ongoing.
The chamber voted 272-162 to pass the short-term funding bill on Tuesday evening, just one day before the House is set to be out of session until the week of Feb. 28. A total of 51 House Republicans joined all but one Democrat (Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.)) in support of the measure.
The Senate is expected to act swiftly on the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that he intends for the upper chamber to “take it up quickly and in time” before current government funding expires Feb. 18.
The legislation buys congressional negotiators on both sides of the aisle time to strike a larger spending deal, known as an omnibus, to fund government operations for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in late September.
If passed by the House and Senate, the continuing resolution will mark the third time Congress has had to resort to such measures to prevent a shutdown for the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1 as lawmakers struggle to reach a bipartisan agreement on spending.
The House, where Democrats hold the majority, has so far passed nine out of 12 of its annual appropriations bills. But none have passed in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats would need the support of all the party’s members and 10 Republican votes to pass such legislation.
Leaders on both sides of the aisle have their sights set on securing a deal on a massive omnibus spending package for fiscal 2022, but disagreements in major areas, including defense and nondefense spending, as well as policy riders, have slowed efforts.
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican on Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that leaders have continued to meet and have been trading spending offers.
“We’re close,” Shelby said, though he added that leaders are “not there” yet.
Congressional appropriators have also bemoaned the lack of an agreement on an overall top-line number as spending talks drag out, making it difficult for those charged with helping craft spending legislation to complete their work.
“What’s preventing us from getting a deal is a lack of agreement on top lines … because once you get top lines, then you have all of these complicated issues within each subcommittee,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, told The Hill.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Monday that she’s “hopeful” she and other leading negotiators will come to a topline agreement later this week.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) also said on the floor on Tuesday afternoon that she believes leaders are “very close” to an agreement on spending, adding she is “eager to move this process forward.”
“I have every expectation that we can finalize a framework in short order and then work together to fill in the details and enact an omnibus,” she said.
The last effort to swiftly pass a stopgap measure to prevent a shutdown in December ran into resistance from Republicans who vowed to oppose any spending bill that would implement the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Those Republicans ultimately relented to allow a swift vote to prevent a government shutdown after they secured a vote on amendment to prevent enforcement of the vaccine mandate for large businesses.
Since then, the Supreme Court last month blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers. But the court did allow a vaccine mandate for health providers at federally funded facilities to stand.
Nearly 50 Republicans in the House and Senate signed a letter last week led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) vowing to oppose any federal spending bill that funds the enforcement of COVID-19 vaccine mandates “at any level of government.”
At least 10 Senate Republicans will have to join with Democrats to advance the stopgap measure when it reaches the upper chamber. But only four GOP senators — Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) — have signed on to the pledge to oppose any funding that allows implementation of vaccine mandates.