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Congress Averts Shutdown with Passage of Short-Term Spending Bill, Awaiting Biden’s Signature

The Senate approved a House-passed temporary government-funding measure Wednesday night and the legislation is now awaiting President Biden’s signature, narrowly avoiding a midnight Friday shutdown deadline.

The bill was passed by the Democratic-led chamber with an 87-11 margin and is known as a so-called “clean continuing resolution” as it does not include any spending cuts.

Despite the deadlines, the House and Senate depart Washington this week for a nearly two-week Thanksgiving recess. Congress is then out again for the last two weeks of December and the first week of January for the holidays.

The Senate voted down an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, to slash spending across the board by approximately 1%. However, Mr. Biden is expected to swiftly sign the legislation.

The two-part stopgap measure kicks the can down the road by creating two more shutdown deadlines on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, splitting funding into two tranches for different government agencies. That allows lawmakers just five working weeks to negotiate and pass the first four of 12 funding bills by Jan. 19 that comprise the annual budget, a major hurdle for a bitterly divided Congress.

Both chambers continue to struggle to pass their own budgets, a precursor for going to conference and hashing out their differences.

In the latest sign of House Republicans’ internal struggles, conservatives again tanked a portion of the GOP’s annual budget proposal on Wednesday. Speaker Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, canceled the week’s remaining votes and sent members home until after Thanksgiving.

The House has passed 7 of 12 appropriations bills and the Senate just 3 of 12, but none have passed both chambers. Those that have passed the Senate were negotiated and approved with bipartisan support while the House’s were Republican-only measures.

“One of the biggest challenges, obviously, is there’s a difference in numbers between the House and the Senate,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune, South Dakota Republican. “At some point, you have to have an alignment of incentives and interests.”

Since the 1974 Congressional Budget Act that established the modern-day budget process, Congress has passed its annual budget by the Oct. 1 fiscal deadline only four times.

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