Congress Passes Funding Bill

With Late Rally, Congress Avoids Government Shutdown With Overwhelming Support

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Congress found itself spending Saturday voting to avoid a government shutdown and the Senate finally cleared a 45-day funding bill with an 88-9 vote about three hours before the 2023 fiscal year was set to end. The White House had said President Joe Biden would immediately sign the short-term bill. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Congress on Saturday voted to approve a 45-day funding bill hours before risking a government shutdown as GOP House leaders ending up leaning on Democratic votes to break the impasse.

Lawmakers spent Saturday taking up a bill to fund the government through mid-November as the House first overwhelmingly cleared the bill in the mid-afternoon, then the Senate voted 88-09 just before 9 p.m. EDT to send the bill to the White House.

For farmers, the vote ensures Farm Service Agency offices will remain open to process loans and accept applications for popular conservation programs. USDA market reports such as Crop Progress will continue without interruption along with other market news reports such as export sales.

After failing to rely on his own caucus to pass a short-term spending bill -- a Continuing Resolution -- that had no chance to pass the Senate, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reversed course on Saturday and put a 45-day funding bill on the floor without major budget cuts, and included $16 billon is disaster aid as well. The result was a 335-91 vote with 209 Democrats joining 126 Republicans to pass the bill. Ninety Republican members voted against the last-minute bill presented by their leadership.

"We're going to be adults in the room. And we're going to keep government open," McCarthy said before the Saturday vote, according to Associated Press.

Full details on the disaster aid were not available Saturday, but the bill also included an extension of the national flood insurance program.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., declared a victory after all but one Democrat voted for the bill. Jeffries had repeatedly called for McCarthy to put a bill on the floor that would draw Democratic support rather than relying solely on GOP votes. "The American people have won. The extreme MAGA Republicans have lost. It was a victory for the American people and a complete and total surrender by right-wing extremists who throughout the year have tried to hijack the Congress," Jeffries said.

The Senate eventually agreed in the early evening to take up the bill and passed it overwhelmingly vote to avoid a shutdown. The late votes in Congress avoided the first shutdown since a 35-day standoff in December 2018 and January 2019.

McCarthy had failed on Friday to get a short-term funding bill passed with his caucus despite trying to appease more conservative members with more cuts to social programs and efforts to beef up the southern border. The House rejected the one-month continuing resolution on a 198-232 vote as 21 Republicans joined with every Democrat to reject the plan.

WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT

President Joe Biden issued a statement after the Senate vote pointing to bipartisan majorities that voted to keep the government open, "preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans. This bill ensures that active-duty troops will continue to get paid, travelers will be spared airport delays, millions of women and children will continue to have access to vital nutrition assistance, and so much more. This is good news for the American people."

Still, the president admonished House Republicans, saying "we should never have been in this position in the first place."

He pointed to the budget deal the president had reached with McCarthy "to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis." Biden criticized "extreme House Republicans" for trying to walk away from the deal and demanding major budget cuts. The president also reiterated the need to continue backing Ukraine in its war against Russia.

"While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support," Biden said. "We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment."

USDA FUNDING DEBATE

The House had worked throughout the week on a package of spending bills. While lawmakers cleared along partisan lines the Defense, Homeland Security and Department of State funding bills, the House late Thursday failed to pass the 2024 funding bill for USDA and FDA by a vote of 191 to 237, with 27 Republicans joining 210 Democrats in voting against the bill.

No Democrat voted for the bill. Several Republicans who voted against the bill were members of the House Agriculture Committee or came from the GOP's moderate wing.

Listen to DTN's Field Posts podcast on the government shutdown "E164: Ag Braces for a Season of Uncertainty in Washington": https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

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Chris Clayton