US President Joseph Biden Thursday signed into law the government funding bill, hours after Congress agreed on it in a last-minute rush to avoid a shutdown.
In the absence of a spending bill, the federal government faced a shutdown which was to have started Friday. But Thursday's political maneuvers will keep it running at least through Dec. 3.
The House of Representatives and the Senate passed a government funding measure earlier Thursday by 254 to 175 and 65 to 35 votes respectively, thus surviving the midnight cutoff.
Government shutdowns are a funding gap period during which federal government agencies stop operating either partially or fully. They happen when there is a failure to pass funding legislation to finance them for the upcoming fiscal year or at least in a temporary manner, such as Thursday's bill provided for.
We are very, very proud of this legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. said. It's just a remarkable thing to think of all the things that we can do working together for the people. Earlier Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke of a glimmer of hope. He added that “this is one of the biggest problems that has faced us in the last while, making sure the government stays open, and now we can be sure it will.
Earlier this week, the Senate had blocked the House version of the bill in a procedural vote because of Republican opposition to extending the debt ceiling, which for political reasons they wanted Democrats to approve on their own.
The Treasury Department estimates that the debt limit will be hit on Oct. 18, according to a letter Secretary Janet Yellen sent to Pelosi on Tuesday. It is important to remember that estimates regarding how long our remaining extraordinary measures and cash may last can unpredictably shift forward or backward,” Yellen wrote.
The holdup is also the result of a standoff between Democratic moderates and their more progressive colleagues, coupled with Biden's mind already made up not to let his $3.5 trillion government overhaul collapse.
Democrats are said to be on the brink of an embarrassing setback if they are unable to overcome the standoff over Biden’s scheme. For the time being, Thursday's outcome was a partial win for the ruling party, as Biden seeks to rewrite the nation’s tax and spending plans with a slim majority in Congress.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted the process looked messy from the outside.
As the fiscal yearend neared, Congress voted Thursday to provide government funding to avoid a federal shutdown, keeping operations going for the time being, but only until Dec. 3, which means further parliamentary negotiations are yet to come. The debt ceiling debate shifts to October, ahead of another deadline when the Treasury Department has warned money would run out to pay past bills.
Biden has insisted his government's expansion programs would be largely paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — businesses earning more than US $5 million a year, and individuals earning more than US $400,000 a year, or US $450,000 for couples.