Tom Brenner | Reuters
Congress raced to prevent a government shutdown Thursday with hours to go before a midnight deadline.
The Senate moved first to pass a short-term appropriations bill that would keep the government running through Dec. 3. The chamber approved the legislation in a 65-35 vote, as 15 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats.
Barring delays, the House is expected to approve the plan and send it to President Joe Biden before funding lapses.
The legislation includes money for hurricane relief and the resettlement of Afghan refugees. It appears set to pass with bipartisan support, as both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke in support of it Thursday morning.
“I’m confident the House will approve this measure later this afternoon and send it to the president’s desk before funding runs out,” Schumer said ahead of the vote. “This is a good outcome, one I’m happy we are getting done.”
A government shutdown could lead to furloughs of federal workers and the suspension of certain services. A funding lapse could pose particular challenges during U.S. efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic — though the Biden administration has said a shutdown would have little effect on public health functions.
Congress can snuff out one possible crisis Thursday but has another looming. Lawmakers still need to raise or suspend the debt ceiling before Oct. 18 to prevent a possible default on U.S. debt that would result in job losses, economic damage and a drop in the stock market.
Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, tried to fund the government and suspend the debt ceiling as part of the same bill. Senate Republicans blocked the legislation, even though extending the ceiling doesn’t authorize new spending. Approval would let the Treasury to cover its existing obligations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., repeatedly said his party would vote for a funding bill without a suspension of the debt ceiling.