US Congress approves short-term spending Bill to keep the govt open, sending it to Biden’s desk

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Racing to avoid a government shutdown at midnight, Congress on Thursday (Sept 30) gave final approval to a spending Bill that would extend federal funding through early December and provide emergency aid to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees and disaster recovery efforts across the country.

The legislation passed 254-175, clearing it for President Joe Biden's signature before funding lapses.

The Senate earlier on Thursday passed the legislation on a 65-35 margin, with 15 Republicans joining all Democrats in favour.

"This is a good outcome - one I am happy we are getting done," said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, speaking on the Senate floor before the vote.

"With so many things happening in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to grind to a halt."

Lawmakers reached a deal on the spending legislation after Democrats agreed to strip out a provision that would have raised the federal government's ability to continue borrowing funds through the end of 2022. Senate Republicans blocked an initial funding package on Monday over its inclusion, refusing to give the majority party any of the votes needed to move ahead on a Bill to avert a first-ever federal default in the coming weeks.

The legislation that passed on Thursday would keep the government fully funded through Dec 3, giving lawmakers additional time to reach consensus over the dozen annual Bills that dictate federal spending. It would provide US$6.3 billion (S$8.5 billion) to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States and US$28.6 billion to help communities rebuild from hurricanes, wildfires and other recent natural disasters.

"This Bill is not a permanent solution," said Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "I look forward to soon beginning negotiations with my counterparts across the aisle and across the Capitol to complete full-year government funding Bills.

"The American people are capable of building a future that is stronger and more prosperous as long as they have the tools they need to do it," she added.

"This Bill helps ensure that they have those tools."

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The disaster funding is intended to help communities across the country continue recovering from the damage inflicted in recent years by natural disasters, including Hurricanes Ida, Delta, Zeta and Laura, as well as wildfires, droughts and winter storms.

It would also distribute billions of dollars across the federal government to help Afghan refugees settle in the United States, including funds to help provide emergency housing, English lessons and additional resources.

Before agreeing to the details of the spending Bill on Thursday morning, the Senate defeated an amendment proposed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton that would have curtailed the duration of some of the benefits for Afghan refugees.

Senators also voted down an amendment, offered by Republican Senator Roger Marshall that would have barred funds from going towards the implementation and enforcement of Biden's coronavirus vaccine mandate, as well as an amendment that would deny lawmakers pay should they fail to pass a budget resolution and the dozen spending Bills by Friday.

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