WASHINGTON. On Thursday, the divided house approved legislation that would fund the government until mid-February, as senators fought to avoid a vaccine shutdown and a Biden administration’s testing mandate for major employers.
Less than 36 hours before the funding deadline, the House of Representatives voted 221 to 212 to keep the government open until February 18 and provide $ 7 billion for Afghan refugee care and resettlement. Only one Republican Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger joined Democrats in voting for the measure.
The fate of the law was uncertain in the Senate, which required a unanimous vote to expedite its passage until Friday midnight. Several Republicans have warned that they will object if they are not given a vote on an amendment that would ban funding for President Biden’s vaccine implementation and a private sector testing mandate.
By Thursday evening, a solution to the confrontation seemed quite achievable. Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and Majority Leader, said plans to vote tonight on spending measures “look very good,” although he did not provide details. A successful vote on this measure will clear the way for Biden to sign it and prevent a government shutdown that begins this weekend.
Bipartisan leaders warned against closure and urged their colleagues to find alternative ways to voice their opposition to the vaccine mandate. Several aides noted that the Senate was already preparing to vote later this month on a Republican proposal to repeal the rule.
Mr Biden expressed confidence that the shutdown could be avoided. telling reporters after speaking at the National Institutes of Health that he spoke to both Senate leaders and that “there is a plan in case someone does not decide to be completely wrong.”
Senior Democrats and Republicans in Congress hailed the spending agreement, saying it would give them more time to resolve outstanding disputes and approve longer-term government funding legislation next year. The House vote came just hours after leaders announced the bicameral agreement.
“While I want the February 18 ending date earlier and I chose earlier dates, I believe this agreement allows the appropriation process to move forward towards a final funding agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” spokeswoman Rosa DeLauro said. Connecticut Democrat and Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
While lawmakers have long recognized they need more time to agree on a dozen bills that will fund the government throughout the fiscal year, the interim plan has sparked controversy over how long it should last and what additional funding proposals might be. attached to It.
As the short-term legislation maintains existing funding levels, it will effectively codify, through mid-February, the spending levels that have been agreed with the Trump administration. Democrats insisted on doing this only before the end of January, as they seek to set their own funding levels and priorities, controlling the White House and both houses of Congress.
Faced with Republican objections, Democrats also scrapped looming billions of dollars in cuts in Medicare, agricultural subsidies and other programs.
Both sides agreed to provide $ 7 billion for Afghan evacuees who fled the country after the Taliban regained control and American troops withdrew. Additional funding includes about $ 4.3 billion for the Department of Defense to assist evacuees at military bases, $ 1.3 billion for the State Department, and $ 1.3 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services unit to provide resettlement and other services. including Emergency Housing and English Lessons.
House Republicans, however, have almost unanimously opposed the spending measure known as the permanent resolution.
December 2, 2021 6:54 PM ET
“While I’m sure President Trump will be very happy if his latest budget is saved for almost a year after he left office, there is still work to be done,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma and member of the Housing Appropriations Committee. “Perhaps most disappointing is how the majority failed to reach a relatively simple deal on this particular ongoing settlement.”
Opposite the Capitol, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that he was “glad we finally reached an agreement.”
But he warned of negotiations on long-term spending bills. He said that if Democrats continue to promote policies that Republicans oppose, such as lowering defense funding and repealing the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion, “we will have the same conversation in February.”
A more pressing dilemma was the timing of the short-term spending bill and whether Republican senators would allow it to move forward quickly enough to avoid a closure that would begin on Saturday. Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Roger Marshall of Kansas, both Republicans, have spearheaded a move to end funding over the vaccine mandate.
“I don’t want to close down the government,” said Mr. Li in his speech. “The only thing I want to shut down is that Congress is funding the implementation of an immoral and unconstitutional vaccine law.”
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Both senators said they would only allow the spending bill to move forward if their amendment is subject to a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold needed to push most major legislation in the Senate.
Given the even split in the 100-member House, that would mean it would only take one Democrat to pass it, joining all 50 Republicans in support of the proposal, and Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, suggested he didn’t rule it out. so.
“I have been very supportive of the mandate of the federal government, the military, all the people who work with government payrolls,” Mr. Manchin told reporters Thursday morning. “In the private sector, I am less enthusiastic about it.”
Mr Manchin voted against a similar amendment in late September, just over a month before the Biden administration announced it would require vaccinations or weekly testing for all companies with more than 100 employees.
The two Republicans, on condition of anonymity, said they expect to eventually vote on the amendments, which will clear the way for the spending bill. Several Republican senators were absent Thursday night, which meant the amendment was expected to fail regardless of Mr Manchin’s decision.
Several senior Republicans who have objected to the mandate have warned that the dispute is not worth shutting down the government, especially as the country faces a new variant of the coronavirus.
The requirement, which the Biden administration set to go into effect in January, has fallen into the trap of lawsuits. In November, a federal appeals court suspended the rule and said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had gone beyond its mandate in issuing the rule.
“I don’t think the government shutdown on this issue will work,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a minority leader, told Fox News. “It will only lead to chaos and uncertainty, so I don’t think this is the best way to get the job done.”
But it will only take one senator to file an objection to slow the passage of the spending bill and force a cutoff in government funding.
“It’s so stupid that we have people who are anti-science, anti-vaccination, and say they are going to shut down the government because of this,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at her weekly press conference, visibly irritated. “We’re not going to use their anti-vaccine action, okay?”
“So if you think that’s how we’re going to keep the government open,” she added, “forget it.”