Washington — Both chambers of Congress on Thursday passed a stopgap measure that will fund federal agencies into mid-February, sending the legislation to President Biden's desk and avoiding a holiday season partial shutdown.
The measure passed the Senate 69-28 with substantial GOP support, hours after passing the House 221-212. Congressman Adam Kinzinger provided the sole Republican vote for the bill in the House.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to report the government remains open," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor after the measure passed.
The bill, known as a short-term continuing resolution, extends federal funding at current levels through Feb. 18, but provides an additional $7 billion across four agencies to assist with relocation efforts of Afghan refugees. An earlier short-term continuing resolution approved by Congress in late September extends federal funding through Friday.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement the new stopgap measure includes "virtually no changes to existing funding or policy" and allows the appropriations process to move toward a final funding deal. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he is "pleased" lawmakers came to a consensus on the short-term funding bill, but urged appropriators to "get serious" about finishing bills funding individual agencies.
He said in a statement that this work could only begin if both sides agree to begin the 2022 fiscal year where fiscal year 2021 finished. "That means maintaining legacy riders, eliminating poison pills, and getting serious about the funding we are going to provide for our nation's defense. If that doesn't happen, we'll be having this same conversation in February."
The White House urged "swift passage" of the bill in a statement and praised the $7 billion for Afghan refugee relocation efforts. It also urged lawmakers to reach consensus on individual appropriations bills to avoid having to pass yet another continuing resolution.
Some Republicans tried to object to the short-term funding measure over the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine requirement, and a Senate vote over an amendment to get rid of that requirement failed. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested on Fox News that shutting down the government over the vaccine rules would just "create chaos and uncertainty."
"We're not going to shut the government down," he said. "It makes no sense for anyone. Almost no one on either side thinks it's a good idea."
Pelosi certainly agreed with that and said the provision to strip funding for the vaccine requirement would have been a non-starter in the House.
"We're not going to go for their anti-vaxxing," she said. "So if you think that's how we're going to keep the government open, forget that."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the continuing resolution a "good compromise" that allows appropriators to continue their negotiations on appropriation bills to fund the government.
Congress has other hurdles ahead in the final weeks of the year, though. In addition to the Dec. 3 shutdown deadline, lawmakers must pass the annual $768 billion defense bill and raise or suspend the debt limit in the coming weeks. And the defense bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, is currently stalled in the Senate after Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, blocked a deal on amendments.