Lawmakers have punted the shutdown threat for nine weeks, but a potential debt default looms.
President Biden on Thursday evening signed a stopgap funding measure to avoid a shutdown that would have otherwise begun Friday. The Senate had passed the measure, which will keep agencies open through Dec. 3, early in the afternoon, followed by the House.
Biden’s signature prevents agencies from having to send hundreds of thousands of employees home on furlough.
Lawmakers reached a breakthrough Wednesday evening, which came after several setbacks and a failed Senate vote earlier this week. Democrats were able to win over the requisite number of Republicans in the Senate only after dropping a provision that would have also suspended the nation’s borrowing limit for 15 months. The threat of a debt default now still looms, with Treasury Department Secretary Janet Yellen announcing this week the deadline for action is Oct. 18.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed confidence his strategy would pay off, saying on the Senate floor Thursday Democrats have realized the path forward “matches the roadmap that Republicans have been laying out for months.” McConnell has implored Democrats to raise the debt limit through a process known as reconciliation—which would not require any Republican support—something Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has called a non-starter. Instead, he said the chamber will vote as soon as next week on a House-passed standalone bill to suspend the debt ceiling.
Schumer, meanwhile, took Thursday’s vote as a win.
“This is a good outcome, one I’m happy we are getting done,” he said. “With so many things to take care of here in Washington, the last thing we need is for the government to grind to a halt.”
All sides have made clear for weeks they supported a stopgap funding bill to avoid a shutdown, with disagreements lingering only over what would be attached to the measure. While Republicans successfully decoupled addressing the debt ceiling from the funding bill—arguing Democrats should act on their own to raise or suspend the limit—supplemental funding for Afghan resettlement and disaster relief stayed in the bill. Lawmakers also disagreed on funding for Israel’s missile defense program, which was ultimately left out of the measure. The Senate rejected three amendments from Republicans that would have prevented Afghan evacuees from receiving certain identification cards, blocked vaccine mandates and ensured lawmakers do not receive pay when full appropriations are not enacted.
The White House had already begun making contingency plans in case funding did expire Thursday night. As is routine in every administration, the Office of Management and Budget had conversations with agency leaders last week instructing them to begin preparing for a possible shutdown.
Lawmakers have expressed optimism that they would be able to reach a compromise setting line-by-line appropriations for the rest of fiscal 2022 by Dec. 3, though there remains significant work ahead. The House has approved many of the requisite spending bills for fiscal 2022, which included large spending increases for nearly all federal agencies and did not gain Republican support. The Senate, which will have to win bipartisan backing to advance its appropriations measures, has not yet voted on any of its bills.
“As I have made clear, this bill is not a permanent solution," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. "I look forward to soon beginning negotiations with my counterparts across the aisle and across the Capitol to complete full-year government funding bills that reverse decades of disinvestment."