Senate reaches last-minute deal to avert government shutdown


(WASHINGTON) — The Senate was set to vote Thursday on a deal party leaders reached late Wednesday to avert a government shutdown that would have affected hundreds of thousands of federal workers and slammed an economy still struggling to recover from the pandemic, all this with just hours left to stave off a crisis.

Under the deal, announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, senators are expected to dispense with a handful of Republican amendments and then approve a temporary funding bill that not only averts a shutdown until Dec. 3, but also disaster aid for states ravaged by extreme weather and money to further assist Afghan refugees.

“The last thing the apparent American people need is for the government to grind to a halt,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday morning.

The stopgap measure does not include any provision to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, though, after Republicans steadfastly rejected any attempt to include it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has continued to insist that his conference will not help raise the borrowing limit — or even expedite Democrats’ ability to do so alone – citing concerns about the majority party’s intention to pass trillions in new spending for social and climate policy. This, despite a debt ceiling increase paying for past, bipartisan debt.

“What Republicans laid out all along was a clean continuing resolution without the poison pill of a debt limit increase,” McConnell said. “That’s exactly what we’ll pass today.”

He said Democrats “accepted reality,” putting forward a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government, and that “the same thing will need to happen on the debt limit.”

Schumer said Republicans realized a shutdown would be “catastrophic” and “they should realize that a default on the national debt would be even worse.”

He said the GOP have spent the week “solidifying themselves as the party of default.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., noted the irony of Republicans refusing to raise the borrowing limit but then voting to approve billions in new spending.

“If there’s no money in the Treasury to pay for these items — what’s the point?” Leahy asked.

McConnell, for his part, condemned Democrats for not including $1 billion in funding for Israel’s anti-missile Iron Dome system. Democrats in the House balked at funding, and the measure was stripped out in that chamber. But a majority of Democrats in both chambers have said they intend to pass the funding for a key U.S. ally at a later date.

The stopgap funding measure, once passed in the Senate, heads back to the House where it is expected to be swiftly approved. Then it hits President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, just hours before the government technically runs out of money at the end of the day Thursday.

These things always take much longer than is expected, and with just hours before the midnight deadline, it does remain possible that lawmakers will miss that time limit but not by any great length of time.

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