Senate Advances Funding Stopgap to Avoid Government Shutdown

Samantha Flom
By Samantha Flom
September 26, 2023Congress
Senate Advances Funding Stopgap to Avoid Government Shutdown
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks with reporters during a press conference in Congress in Washington on Sept. 19, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The Senate voted Tuesday to move forward with a stopgap measure to stave off a government shutdown as House leadership focused on passing spending bills.

The Senate voted 77–19 to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed to a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through fiscal year 2028. The bill, already passed by the House, is leadership’s intended vehicle for a continuing resolution (CR) to extend government funding while 2024 budget negotiations play out.

Lawmakers have until Sept. 30, the final day of the current fiscal year, to pass such a measure—or all 12 appropriations bills—to avoid a shutdown. If they fail to do so, all nonessential government operations will grind to a halt on Oct. 1.

The FAA’s authorization is set to expire the same day, so any stopgap measure Congress passes would also need to include an extension of that policy to prevent flight disruptions.

Although the text of the Senate’s funding patch has yet to be made available, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stressed that the measure was the product of bipartisan, “good faith” negotiations.

“This bipartisan CR is a temporary solution—a bridge towards cooperation and away from extremism. And it will allow us to keep working to fully fund the federal government and spare American families the pain of a shutdown,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.

“While, for sure, this bill does not have everything either side wants, we’ll continue to fund the government at present levels while maintaining our commitment to Ukraine’s security and humanitarian needs, while also ensuring those impacted by natural disasters across the country begin to get the resources they need,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) joined Mr. Schumer in urging his colleagues to prevent a shutdown with a message clearly targeted at some of his fellow Republicans.

“Delaying action on short-term government funding doesn’t advance the ball on any meaningful policy priorities,” Mr. McConnell said. “Shutting the government down over a domestic budget dispute doesn’t strengthen anyone’s political position. It just puts important progress on ice and it leaves millions of Americans on it.”

GOP Divided

As the Senate moved the needle on its spending extension Tuesday, the House focused its attention on spending bills.

Thus far, the chamber has only managed to approve one bill funding military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs as divisions within the GOP have brought progress on spending to a halt.

The White House, seizing upon the ongoing dysfunction, accused Republicans Tuesday of forcing a “damaging” shutdown that would require military service members to work without pay and Defense Department staffers to be furloughed.

“The reason these national security priorities are now at risk: extreme House Republicans’ relentless efforts to slash funding for vital programs rather than work in a bipartisan manner to keep the government open and address emergency needs for the American people,” the White House said in a statement.

“House Republicans have turned their backs on the bipartisan budget deal that two-third[s] of them voted for just a few months ago and have instead proposed devastating cuts to programs that millions of hardworking Americans count on,” the administration added.

In June, after a months-long standoff, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden reached an agreement to suspend the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing cap and keep spending levels relatively flat through Jan. 1, 2025.

But that deal put the speaker at odds with stalwart Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus who wanted more concessions from Democrats on spending cuts. The deal, they charged, was like handing the president a “blank check” through the end of his term.

Now, with just a few days left to avert a shutdown, the same hardliners have backed the speaker into a corner.

To pass anything without the support of Democrats, Mr. McCarthy can only afford to lose four Republican votes. But if he chooses to circumvent the holdouts in his own party by reaching across the aisle, he could anger enough Republicans to imperil his position as speaker.

And one congressman has already put him on notice.

“On this very floor in January, the whole world witnessed a historic contest for House Speaker,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) noted on Sept. 12 on the House floor.

“Mr. Speaker, you are out of compliance with the agreement that allowed you to assume this role,” he continued. “The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you into immediate total compliance or remove you, pursuant to a motion to vacate the chair.”

Mr. Gaetz, along with other members of the House Freedom Caucus, has spoken out against passing a continuing resolution, holding that a shutdown should be leveraged to benefit Republican priorities. During a conference meeting last week, he reportedly vowed that he would not vote for any funding extension, and that “more than seven” other representatives shared that position.

While other Republicans left that meeting expressing optimism that a budget deal was within reach, one has yet to materialize.

And if one doesn’t by the looming deadline, Mr. Gaetz has already asked the House via letter (pdf) that his salary be withheld “until legislation has taken effect to end such lapse in appropriations in its entirety.”

Whether other lawmakers will follow suit remains to be seen, though leadership in both chambers would appear to prefer that such a move not be needed.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.