By David Morgan and Doina Chiacu WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote on Thursday on a bill funding federal agencies through Feb. 18, after Democrats and Republicans agreed on that date in negotiations aimed at averting a partial government shutdown beginning this weekend. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said […]
U.S. House to vote on government funding bill Thursday, in scramble to avert shutdown
By David Morgan and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote on Thursday on a bill funding federal agencies through Feb. 18, after Democrats and Republicans agreed on that date in negotiations aimed at averting a partial government shutdown beginning this weekend.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the debate and vote would take place on Thursday, after Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement that “agreement has been reached on a Continuing Resolution.”
If the measure passes the House, which Democrats control by a narrow majority, it would need to also pass the Senate before Democratic President Joe Biden could sign it into law to continue government operations ranging from national parks and air traffic control to military pay and medical research.
But a group of hard-line Republican conservatives are threatening to delay Senate consideration in protest against Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates, raising the possibility that the government could partially shut down over the weekend while the Senate moves slowly toward eventual passage.
Congress has until midnight on Friday to pass a measure that would maintain funding of federal government operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, amid concerns about a new rise in cases and the arrival of the Omicron variant in the United States.
A partial government shutdown would create a political embarrassment for both parties, but especially for Biden’s Democrats.
Congress faces another urgent deadline right on the heels of this one. The federal government is also approaching its $28.9 trillion borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has estimated it could reach by Dec. 15. Failure to extend or lift the limit in time could trigger an economically catastrophic default.
The fact that the resolution extends funding into February suggested a victory for Republicans in closed-door negotiations. Democrats had pushed for a measure that would run into late January, while Republicans demanded a timeline extending into February or March to leave spending at levels agreed to when Republican Donald Trump was president.
“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” DeLauro said.
But she said Democrats did prevail in including a $7 billion provision for Afghanistan evacuees.
Once enacted, the stopgap funding measure would give Democrats and Republicans nearly 12 weeks to resolve their differences over 12 annual appropriations bills totaling around $1.5 trillion that fund “discretionary” federal programs for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Those bills do not include mandatory funding for programs such as the Social Security retirement plan that are renewed automatically.
“Now we must get serious about completing (fiscal year ’22) bills,” Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “If that doesn’t happen, we’ll be having this same conversation in February.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Morgan; additional reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Scott Malone, Andrea Ricci and Jonathan Oatis)