Biden Signs Government Funding Bill to Avert a Shutdown
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a nine-week stopgap funding bill that averts a government shutdown but fails to resolve the threat of a U.S. default linked to the debt limit.
The legislation was hastily passed by both chambers of Congress earlier in the day, and keeps funding levels for government departments and agencies flat until Dec. 3. Had it not been approved, parts of the U.S. government would have begun suspending operations on Friday.
The measure, however, doesn’t include a provision sought by Democrats to suspend the nation’s debt limit, after Republicans in the Senate blocked a version of the bill that included the debt provision. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that if lawmakers fail to raise the debt limit by about Oct. 18, the government may not be able to pay its bills, posing a dire risk to the U.S. economy.
The bill passed both chambers after Democrats dropped an earlier attempt to attach a debt-ceiling suspension to the bill in face of implacable Republican opposition to that measure. GOP senators blocked a version of the bill containing the debt ceiling language on Monday.
The federal government would be kept open through Dec. 3 under the legislation. The bill also contains $28.6 billion for states recovering from hurricanes and wildfires as well as $6.3 billion to resettle refugees from the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Republicans said the last minute stopgap vote was the fault of Democrats who had tried to tie the bill to the debt ceiling last week.
“We did not need to be in the place just hours before the deadline,” said Appropriations Committee top Republican Kay Granger of Texas said on the House floor, noting she had voted against the bill last week over the debt issue.
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House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said Republicans are threatening the economy to play politics on the debt ceiling.
“This is not about as some of colleagues would like to say about paying for spending going forward. This is about paying for the past,” she said. “Now is the time for us to raise the debt ceiling in order to do that.”
Biden, in a message accompanying the White House announcement that he had signed the bill, thanked Granger, DeLauro as well as Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, “for their leadership.”
Democrats urged GOP senators to consent to passing that via a simple majority with only Democratic votes. So far Republicans have rejected that, trying instead to force Democrats to undertake a weeks-long budget process to do the same thing.
“Why do the Republicans refuse the raise the debt limit?” said Leahy, the Senate Appropriations Chairman. “Why are they willing to make us look like idiots in front of the rest of the world? Why are they willing to put so many people out of work?”
A stopgap spending bill is needed because none of the 12 regular appropriations bills for fiscal 2022 have been enacted into law amid a dispute between Democrats and minority Senate Republicans over spending levels for the military and domestic programs. Leahy said Wednesday he plans to unveil draft spending bills soon to jump-start the process of negotiating a solution before the new deadline.
The stopgap bill did not include a proposed $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system despite widespread support for the provision. The House has passed a standalone bill providing that funding, and the Senate may take that bill up soon according to senators in both parties.
Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, held up the provision over aid going to Afghanistan that he argues will benefit the Taliban government. Paul has said the assistance should instead be used to offset the cost of the Iron Dome system.
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