US president signs short-term spending bill to avert government shutdown

By Anadolu Agency

US President Joe Biden signed a short-term spending bill last Saturday to keep the government open for the immediate future ahead of a critical midnight deadline when funding for federal agencies was set to run out.

“I just signed a law to keep the government open for 47 days. There’s plenty of time to pass Government funding bills for the next fiscal year, and I strongly urge Congress to get to work right away. The American people expect their government to work. Let’s make sure it does,” Biden wrote on X and shared a picture of the signing.

The move came after the US Senate signed off on the bill earlier Saturday evening and sent the measure to Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The 88-9 vote saw broad bipartisan support with the exception of vocal Republican critics who have demanded further spending cuts. The House of Representatives previously approved the measure to fund the federal government for an additional 45 days by a vote of 335-91.

It gives legislators additional time to work out a longer-term spending deal to fund the government.

The stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, keeps the federal government funded at the same level as the 2023 fiscal year. It saw broad support from Democrats in both chambers, but had a significant number of detractors from Republicans in the House and Senate.

“The American people can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no government shutdown. Democrats have said from the start that the only solution for avoiding a shutdown is bipartisanship, and we’re glad that Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy has finally heeded our message,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the chamber floor.

“In the end, more Democrats supported this bill in the House than Republicans, proving bipartisanship was the best answer all along,” he added.

After dropping steep spending cuts demanded by fringe elements of his party to gain Democratic support and advance the bill, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy now likely faces efforts from his far-right to oust him from his post.

Previous efforts to appease the far-right, including a bill with 30% spending cuts across nearly all agencies, failed to garner support. Former US President Donald Trump had been cajoling them from the sidelines, telling them not to waiver while downplaying the consequences of a potential shutdown.

It is not at all clear if such an effort would succeed, and speaking to reporters earlier at the Capitol, McCarthy appeared defiant.

“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try. But I think this country’s too important,” he said. “If I have to risk my job for standing up for the American public, I will do that.”

Lawmakers had until midnight Saturday, when the current fiscal year terminates, to pass a bill to fund the government and avoid a catastrophic government shutdown.

The bill funds the government through Nov. 17 and includes an additional $16 billion for disaster aid.

Shortly after the Senate vote, the president lauded bipartisan support that ushered the stopgap through the federal legislature, but said: “We should never have been in this position in the first place.”

“Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis,” he said in a statement. “For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.”

While the bill does have Biden’s support and that of his fellow Democrats, it lacks additional funding for Ukraine, a key priority for the president.

Biden said he expects McCarthy to “keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

“We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” he said.

A shutdown would have meant that many of the federal government’s 4 million workers would have been furloughed, or forced to remain home without a paycheck, while others deemed essential would have had to work without pay. That includes the 1.3 million active-duty service members as well as federal law enforcement and air traffic controllers.

A wide array of government services would have immediately grind to a halt.