J. Scott Applewhite/AP
A day before the federal government is scheduled to run out of money, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved a short-term spending bill that would keep federal agencies running through Feb. 18, 2022.
The vote was 221-212, with one Republican joining all Democrats to pass it.
The legislation would not change existing funding levels or policy, but does include $7 billion for evacuees from Afghanistan, according to House Committee on Appropriations Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
The measure now heads to the Senate, where prospects for quick passage are in doubt. While leaders support the agreement, a small group of conservative Republicans, who oppose vaccine-or-testing requirements for companies with at least 100 employees, have threatened to delay passage of the short-term funding bill. That could lead to a short partial government shutdown.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., criticized Republicans who are using the spending measure as a vehicle to launch a fight over vaccine mandates. “We’re not going to go for their anti-vaxxing. So if you think that’s how we’re going to keep government open, forget that,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference.
But top leaders of both parties have stressed that a shutdown won’t happen. President Biden needs to sign the legislation before the midnight deadline on Friday to avoid any lapse in funding.
House and Senate Appropriations panels have again failed to reach agreement on the dozen annual spending bills that fund federal agencies for the fiscal year. Congress already passed one continuing resolution in September that kicked the can on the issue until Dec. 3. It has become an annual holiday tradition on Capitol Hill in recent years to scramble to pass some type of stopgap measure to avoid a possible shutdown.
The move to extend the current spending figures means agencies are largely operating at levels set during the Trump administration. The stopgap legislation gives the committees time to negotiate the various bills or potentially wrap some of them together in a larger package covering multiple agencies early next year.
Removing the threat of a partial shutdown removes one issue from a full plate of December legislation for Congress.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has notified Congress that if it does not raise the nation’s borrowing authority, it risks a default — something she testified could “eviscerate” the economic recovery.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters he was having a “good conversation” with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about addressing the debt ceiling, but he declined to give any details. Republicans have suggested that Democrats use a process known as budget reconciliation that would allow them to approve an increase in the debt limit with just Democratic votes.