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Avoiding shutdown, Congress approves bill to fund government through Feb. 18

WASHINGTON — Congress on Thursday passed a short-term government funding bill that will prevent a shutdown before the Friday night deadline, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The Senate voted 69-28 to advance the continuing resolution, acting quickly hours after the bill was approved by the House. It will now be sent to Biden to sign, keeping the government funded until Feb. 18. The vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan with 19 Republicans voting for the bill.

The House voted 221-212, with one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois, joining all of the Democrats to pass the legislation.

“I am glad that, in the end, cooler heads prevailed, the government will stay open, and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” said Schumer on the Senate floor prior to the vote.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., announced Thursday morning that House Democrats had reached an agreement with Republican negotiators.

She said the bill has “virtually no changes to existing funding or policy,” although she said it includes $7 billion for Afghanistan evacuees. She also said the agreement will allow lawmakers to craft a longer-term agreement that would take effect next year.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., made clear before the vote that lawmakers still have work to do on the spending bills for the fiscal year.

“Further refusal to meet at the negotiating table will only undermine national security, our ability to invest in American families, and our capability to respond to the coronavirus and its emerging variants,” said Leahy.

The White House urged “swift passage” of the stopgap measure in a statement Thursday, adding that it’s essential that Congress uses “the coming weeks to engage in robust bipartisan negotiations to reach agreement on appropriations and avoid the devastating effects of a full-year continuing resolution.”

However, Congress didn’t reach the agreement without some obstacles earlier in the day. Republicans in the House and the Senate made an effort to delay passage of the spending bill over objections to the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccination mandates for workers.

A trio of Republican senators, Mike Lee, of Utah, Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Roger Marshall, of Kansas, also made a failed attempt to delay the government spending bill if funding to enforce vaccine mandates is included. The amendment sponsored by Marshall failed 50-48 in a partisan vote.

Separately, the conservative House Freedom Caucus urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a letter Wednesday to slow down the process in the Senate and threatened a potential shutdown to push back against Biden’s vaccination mandates, which have been tied up in the courts.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., lashed out at Republicans when she was asked Thursday about their efforts, saying she doesn’t even know whether conservatives would have the votes to block the measure.

“But it is yet again a double, a double sense of irresponsibility,” she told reporters at her weekly news conference. “First of all, they shut down government, and then they shut down science.

“This is so silly that we have people [who] are anti-science, anti-vaccination, saying they’re going to shut down government over that,” she added.

Leigh Ann Caldwell, Haley Talbot and Frank Thorp V contributed.

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