WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 88-9 on Saturday night to pass a short-term bill to keep the government open, averting a shutdown at the last minute after a dramatic turnaround in the waning hours.
The bill passed the House earlier on a substantial bipartisan vote of 335-91, and President Joe Biden signed it into law late Saturday.
The legislation keeps the government funded at existing levels through Nov. 17 and authorizes additional disaster relief money, giving Congress more time to reach a full-year funding agreement. That will still be a towering challenge ahead of the new November deadline, but it avoids for now a shutdown that would have put pay for millions of people in jeopardy.
The deal excludes aid to Ukraine, a provision from the bipartisan Senate bill that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., axed, saying it should be considered separately at a time to be determined.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "It has been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief: There will be no government shutdown tonight.
"After trying to take our government hostage, MAGA Republicans won nothing," Schumer continued. "So one more time: It is good Speaker McCarthy finally — finally — heeded our message that bipartisanship was and is the only way. He could have made this decision weeks ago."
After two weeks of chaos in the House, the breakthrough arrived with just hours to spare before a shutdown when McCarthy announced Saturday morning that he would drop the Republican demands for spending cuts and policy provisions about immigration to hold a quick House vote on a "clean" stopgap bill. Friday, 21 GOP hard-liners tanked his more conservative short-term funding bill, and he said Saturday that the vote left him with no choice but to take this course.
The Senate vote came after a delay by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., due to concerns about the lack of Ukraine funding.
Just ahead of the vote, Schumer reiterated the Senate's commitment to providing additional aid for Ukraine, saying he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has championed funding for the country, have "agreed to continue fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine."
"We support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its sovereignty against Putin’s aggression," Schumer said.
McConnell followed, saying he is "confident" that the Senate will pass more "urgent assistance to Ukraine later this year."
"But let's be clear," he said, saying "the alternative," a shutdown, "would not just pause our progress on these important priorities, it would actually set them back."
After the vote, Schumer, McConnell and other key Senate leaders from both parties declared their support for "sustained security and economic support for Ukraine" in a joint statement.
The Biden administration labeled the continuing resolution, or CR, a “big victory” on funding levels and keeping the government open, a senior administration official said. The White House was committed to standing firm in refusing to renege on the two-year budget deal it struck in May with McCarthy.
Biden praised passage of the bill in a statement for “preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans,” which he called “good news for the American people.”
“But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place,” Biden continued, saying McCarthy and House Republicans had backed out of the budget deal, which was designed to avoid a shutdown fight.
Biden said he expects that McCarthy “will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine” and pass aid for the country soon.
Senior aides such as White House chief of staff Jeff Zients, senior counselor Steve Ricchetti, budget director Shalanda Young and Legislative Affairs Director Shuwanza Goff were all in touch with Democrats and Republicans in recent days, White House officials said. There was “close coordination” with Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the officials added.
The White House also maintained that it was the right approach to avoid a meeting between Biden and McCarthy, the officials said.