WASHINGTON — With just hours to spare, House Republicans and Democrats on Saturday struck a surprise deal to fund the government and avert a shutdown that would have inflicted economic pain on millions of American families.
The House voted on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis, 335-91, for a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR; 209 Democrats and 126 Republicans voted yes, while 90 Republicans voted no. Just one Democrat, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, voted no over a lack of Ukraine aid.
“It was tough, but we got it through," Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said after the vote.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers there say they will not object to a speedy vote; that vote is expected to take place in the next few hours after Senate Democrats meet.
The bill would keep the government open for another 45 days if signed into law by President Joe Biden. And it will buy more time for the House and Senate to finish fuller funding legislation.
The stunning deal came together after McCarthy reversed course and put a so-called “clean” 45-day CR on the floor, with billions in disaster aid but none of the new Ukraine aid in a separate Senate deal, after insisting for days that any short-term funding bill would need to include deep spending cuts and tough border security measures.
By putting a clean bill on the floor, McCarthy dared Democrats to vote against it and shut down the government. Democrats raised objections to the lack of Ukraine aid and bitterly complained that they had not had time to read the 71-page bill, with leadership stalling by using procedural tactics and giving lengthy speeches so they could study the details.
“We are on the brink of a government shutdown. And at the 11th hour legislation is dropped on the American people,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said in a 52-minute floor speech. “And we’re told that you have 5 or 10 minutes to evaluate legislation that is more than 70 pages long and expected to simply trust the word of our extreme MAGA Republican colleagues.”
But in the end, it was a good enough deal for the vast majority of Democrats to stomach. And in the final minutes before the vote, Jeffries began urging rank-and-file Democrats to vote "yes," lawmakers said.
“Let’s be clear: this isn’t a perfect deal or a permanent solution, but New Dems are dedicated to avoiding a shutdown and protecting our economy," New Democrat Coalition Chair Annie Kuster, D-N.H, said in a statement. "While we support this measure to end this immediate crisis, we continue our calls for additional funding to support Ukraine in their fight for democracy and will work tirelessly to ensure they have the assistance required to win this war.”
McCarthy’s bold decision now raises another critical question: What will it mean for his political future?
The speaker’s top foe, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has been threatening for weeks to overthrow McCarthy if he brought a CR to the floor, especially one that relied on Democratic votes to pass. Now that McCarthy has done so, all eyes are on Gaetz to see if he will follow through with his threat.
Gaetz, a conservative bomb-thrower and top ally of former President Donald Trump, had said he would file a motion to vacate, or a vote to overthrow McCarthy. After the CR vote passed, Gaetz tried to get Rep. Steve Womack's attention in the chair, but the no-nonsense Arkansas Republican didn't acknowledge Gaetz, gaveled out and adjourned the House until Monday.
Gaetz later told reporters that McCarthy's speakership was "on some tenuous ground."
After the vote, McCarthy lashed out at reporters asking questions about a potential effort by Gaetz to depose him, underscoring that a funding deal was always going to have to be bipartisan.
"There's no bill that can pass with one party or the other," McCarthy said, his voice becoming animated and louder. "When are you guys gonna get over that it's alright that you put America first. That it's alright if Republicans and Democrats joined together to do what is right."
"If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it," he said. "There has to be an adult in the room."
Earlier Saturday, Republican leaders had conceded in a closed-door meeting that they lacked the support to pass any CR only relying on Republican votes.
Many dejected lawmakers said a shutdown — that would halt paychecks for the nation’s 4 million service members and other federal workers, shutter federal parks and monuments and disrupt food and education programs for low-income children — was all but inevitable.
Then moments later, McCarthy announced he would bring the 45-day CR to the floor, hoping for bipartisan support and egging on Gaetz and other conservative detractors to try to remove him.
"I think Kevin McCarthy has done a phenomenal job as speaker. I think he's been continually underestimated. And here again today, you saw him lead," said one McCarthy ally, freshman Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., a moderate facing a tough reelection bid next year.
"So at the end of the day, if somebody wants to bring a motion to vacate, that's their business. But it will be defeated."