1 of 7 | President Joe Biden signs a stopgap "continuing resolution" keeping the U.S. government open for 45 more days late on Saturday, only minutes before a looming deadline. Photo Courtesy of The White House/X
Sept. 30 (UPI) -- The Senate approved a 45-day stopgap funding resolution and President Joe Biden signed the measure into law late Saturday with only hours to spare before a government shutdown.
After the House of Representatives passed the "continuing resolution" by a 335-91 margin Saturday afternoon, the upper chamber similarly approved it by in a lopsided 88-9 vote despite a lack of funding for Ukraine sought by Democrats.
Biden announced at 11:28 p.m. EDT that he had signed the measure into law, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown that would have begun only 32 minutes later.
The White House and congressional Democrats had warned that any shutdown would have a dire set of consequences, including forcing many federal employee to work without pay and interrupting services providing food to millions of lower-income Americans.
A shutdown, they warned, would also compromise food safety and public health protections, small business loans, border enforcement and infrastructure projects and throw the Transportation Security Administration into chaos, meaning possible delays and disruption for air travelers.
"Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans," Biden said in a statement after signing the measure.
"This bill ensures that active-duty troops will continue to get paid, travelers will be spared airport delays, millions of women and children will continue to have access to vital nutrition assistance, and so much more. This is good news for the American people," he said.
But he also blasted a group of "extreme House Republicans" who spent weeks "demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans" as a price for their support to keep the government functioning.
"They failed," Biden said, adding he was displeased the bill contained no additional funding for Ukraine in its battle against Russian invaders.
"We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted," he asserted, saying he expects House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to "keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also hailed passage of the continuing resolution, which was reached only when McCarthy reversed course earlier in the day and offered a "clean" resolution free of ideologically driven demands sought by a hard-right group of GOP lawmakers led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
"Bipartisanship, which has been the trademark of the Senate, has prevailed," he said in a remarks on the Senate floor. "And the American people can breathe a sigh of relief.
"But this is a bridge CR, and [Republican Senate] Leader [Mitch] McConnell and I 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."
"All extreme right-wing policies have been removed from the House spending bill. The American people have won." House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote in a post on X. "MAGA Republicans have surrendered."
While the measure crafted by McCarthy did not include additional funding for Ukraine as sought by Democrats, it crucially eliminated divisive demands for tougher border security and deep budget cuts sought by members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus.
McCarthy on Saturday offered the "clean" spending bill after previous stopgap measures had failed. He spent the morning meeting with his Republican colleagues aiming to gather support for the latest short-term measure, admitting his job as speaker is at stake with his support for the measure.
Following the vote, he sharply criticized the holdouts, who now seemed likely to force a vote on his ouster.
"If you have members in your conference that won't let you vote for appropriation bills, doesn't want an omnibus and won't vote for a stopgap measure -- so the only answer is to shut down and not pay our troops -- I don't want to be a part of that team," he told reporters.
A McCarthy-backed measure failed by a 198-232 vote Friday with 21 Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
"There's only one person to blame for any potential government shutdown, and that's Matt Gaetz. He's not a conservative Republican. He's a charlatan," Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., said Friday.
Gaetz is an outspoken member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
Before Saturday's vote, House Democrats reviewed the proposal to gauge its support, but the lack of funding for Ukraine initially appeared to be a major obstacle.
"It's a huge problem" Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said Saturday afternoon.
"I think if we had a clean (bill) without Ukraine on it, we could probably be able to move that through," McCarthy told reporters Friday.
"I think if the Senate puts Ukraine on there and focuses Ukraine over America, I think I think that could cause real problems."
Republicans hold a four-seat majority in the House, meaning they needed Democratic support in order to pass any bill.
The House hardliners had demanded that McCarthy renege on a bipartisan budget deal he had reached with Biden four months ago in a bid to extend the nation's debt ceiling, instead demanding budget cuts of at least $120 billion below the agreed-upon levels.
"You remember what it took to get to that deal," White House Budget Director Shalanda Young said Friday. "We shook hands, two thirds of Congress voted for it, and the President signed it into law -- a commitment to the American people that reduced the deficit, protected critical programs, and ensured their government remained open.
"Today, four of those five sides I just listed are sticking by that deal. The one side, House Republicans, are refusing to live up to their end of the bargain. They have turned their back on the deal. They are on an island entirely by themselves and entirely of their own making. Their chaos -- and their chaos alone -- is now threatening to push us into a shutdown."