Shutdown Averted, Government Funded Until November 17

Shutdown Averted, Government Funded Until November 17

In a dizzying day of developments, the House and Senate approved a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded at current FY2023 level until November 17, averting a shutdown at midnight tonight. The bill does not provide additional funding for Ukraine, a priority for many on both sides of the aisle, but a non-starter for ultra-conservative Republicans. But it also doesn’t impose draconian spending cuts as those ultra-conservatives wanted. The legislation also reauthorizes the FAA and continues a prohibition on new commercial human spaceflight regulations for three months.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who had long said he did not want a shutdown, allied himself with Democrats to get the bill through the House.  After a morning of disarray with Democrats complaining they didn’t have time to read the legislation and using a variety of delaying tactics to give them time to find out what was in the 71-page bill, it passed the House 335-91 with more Republicans than Democrats in opposition.


The bill, H.R. 5860, keeps the government funded at FY2023 levels through November 17, but does not provide additional funding for Ukraine or border security. At one point the Senate was considering a “6-6-6” bill with roughly $6 billion each for Ukraine, border security and disaster relief, but the final bill includes only disaster relief and at a higher level, $16 billion. Ultra-conservative House Republicans did not want more money for Ukraine, did want border security funding, and also wanted to cut nondefense spending dramatically. Other Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate wanted more money for Ukraine and to keep funding at current levels. Bottom line: neither side got all they wanted, which usually happens in negotiations.

The bill has many other provisions, including an extension of the FAA authorization through December 31. The FAA’s current 5-year authorization expires today. So does a prohibition on the FAA promulgating new commercial human spaceflight regulations. That prohibition, often referred to as the “learning period” or “moratorium,” is extended until January 1, 2024.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

McCarthy’s decision to rely on Democratic votes may imperil his Speakership. Many of the 20-or-so members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus oppose McCarthy and in January forced a 15-vote marathon for his election as Speaker. They demanded many concessions including retaining a provision that just one Republican can force a “motion to vacate the chair,” meaning McCarthy would have to stand again for election to the post. They have been holding that Damoclean sword over his head ever since, but in recent days McCarthy has challenged them to “bring it on.” That may well happen next week.

The Senate was working on a bipartisan CR that included more funding for Ukraine, but when it became clear the House might pass a bill without it, and with the government shutdown looming, Senate Republicans — most of whom support Ukraine — backed off. Late this evening the Senate passed the House bill, clearing it for the President, who signed it about 11:15 pm ET.

President Biden, another supporter of funding for Ukraine, praised the deal while stressing that he expects Congress to approve additional Ukraine funding quickly.

Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate 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.

But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis. For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.

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. 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. — President Biden

It was a tumultuous day. McCarthy’s decision to introduce a CR that met Democrats’ demands to keep the government funded at current levels instead of the much lower levels demanded by the House Freedom Caucus, but without the Ukraine aid sought by Democrats and moderate Republicans but opposed by the HFC, caught many by surprise. So did his decision to bring it up under suspension, which meant he would have to rely on Democrats to get over the two-thirds vote threshold. The House has 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats with two vacancies. If all 433 members were present, 288 would have to vote in the affirmative for the bill to pass.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).

Democrats were angry they didn’t have time to read the bill, especially since McCarthy promised when he became speaker that no bill would be brought to a vote without 72-hours notice. Several delaying tactics were employed, including Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries using his “magic minute” — party leaders are allowed to consume as much time as they wish — to hold forth for almost an hour with a lengthy speech castigating Republican extremists, praising bipartisanship, and criticizing Republicans for reneging on the budget deal McCarthy and Biden negotiated earlier this year — the Fiscal Responsibility Act.  Afterwards, however, he urged Democrats to support the bill in order to avoid a shutdown. (One Democrat, Jamaal Bowman of NY, actually pulled a fire alarm. He was caught on camera and later asserted he didn’t realize it would sound an alarm, but thought it would open a door he was trying to get through and he was not trying to delay the proceedings. McCarthy is vowing punishment.)

The House adjourned immediately after the vote, leaving the Senate with no option other than approving it or allowing the government to shut down until the House reconvened on Monday.  Any changes would have meant sending it back to the House for concurrence.

Ukraine has strong bipartisan support in the Senate and it took many hours for all Senators to agree to pass the House bill, but it finally happened late this evening by a vote of 88-9. All the no votes were Republican. Two Senators did not vote (one from each party). The Senate has one vacancy following the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday.

One complaint from the House Freedom Caucus is that they want each of the 12 regular appropriations bills passed individually instead of bundled into an omnibus.  The House was scheduled to be in recess for the next two weeks, but McCarthy changed the schedule so the House will be in session all of October to vote on those appropriations bills.

The House has passed four appropriations bills so far (MilCon/VA, DOD, State/Foreign Ops, Homeland Security) and defeated one other (Agriculture). The nondefense bills have deeper cuts than what McCarthy and President Biden agreed to in the Fiscal Responsibility Act and are strongly opposed by Democrats and unlikely to pass the Senate.

The Senate has not passed any FY2024 appropriations bills yet. Senate appropriators abided by the Fiscal Responsibility Act when they marked up the 12 bills.

The Fiscal Reponsibility Act, which is law, says that if all 12 appropriations bills are not enacted by January 1, 2024, a one percent across-the-board cut will go into effect for both defense and nondefense spending.


This article has been updated.

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