Senate passes stopgap funding bill, avoiding shutdown

Dec 1, 2021, 8:12 AM | Updated: Dec 2, 2021, 8:39 pm
Night falls at the the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, with the deadline to fund the...

Night falls at the the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, with the deadline to fund the government approaching. Republicans in the Senate are poised to stall a must-pass funding bill as they force a debate on rolling back the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandates for some workers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate passed a stopgap spending bill Thursday that avoids a short-term shutdown and funds the federal government through Feb. 18 after leaders defused a partisan standoff over federal vaccine mandates. The measure now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

Earlier in the day, congressional leaders announced they had finally reached an agreement to keep the government running for 11 more weeks, generally at current spending levels, while adding $7 billion to aid Afghanistan evacuees.

Once the House voted to approve the measure, senators soon announced an agreement that would allow them to vote on it quickly.

“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 69-28.

The Democratic-led House passed the measure by a 221-212 vote. The Republican leadership urged members to vote no; the lone GOP vote for the bill came from Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Lawmakers bemoaned the short-term fix and blamed the opposing party for the lack of progress on this year’s spending bills. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the measure would, however, allow for negotiations on a package covering the full budget year through September.

“Make no mistake, a vote against this continuing resolution is a vote to shut government down,” DeLauro said during the House debate.

Before the votes, Biden said he had spoken with Senate leaders and he played down fears of a shutdown.

“There is a plan in place unless somebody decides to be totally erratic, and I don’t think that will happen,” Biden said.

Some Republicans opposed to Biden’s vaccine rules wanted Congress to take a hard stand against the mandated shots for workers at larger businesses, even if that meant shutting down federal offices over the weekend by blocking a request that would expedite a final vote on the spending bill.

It was just the latest instance of the brinkmanship around government funding that has triggered several costly shutdowns and partial closures over the past two decades. The longest shutdown in history happened under President Donald Trump — 35 days stretching into January 2019, when Democrats refused to approve money for his U.S-Mexico border wall. Both parties agree the stoppages are irresponsible, yet few deadlines pass without a late scramble to avoid them.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Democrats knew last month that several Republicans would use all means at their disposal to oppose legislation that funds or allows the enforcement of the employer vaccine mandate. He blamed Schumer for not negotiating and for ignoring their position.

If the choice is between “suspending nonessential functions” or standing idle while Americans lose their ability to work, “I’ll stand with American workers every time,” Lee said.

Lee and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., authored an amendment that prohibited federal dollars being spent to implement and enforce a series of vaccine mandates put in place by the Biden administration. The amendment went down to defeat with 48 yes votes and 50 no votes. But having the vote opened the door to taking up the full spending bill immediately.

Lee said millions were being forced to choose between an unwanted medical procedure and losing their job.

“Their jobs are being threatened by their own government,” Lee said.

“Let’s give employers certainty and employees peace of mind that they will still have a job this new year,” Marshall urged before the vote.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., countered that the federal government should be using every tool to keep Americans safe and that is why the Biden administration has taken steps to urge employers to make sure their workers are fully vaccinated or test negative before they come to the workplace.

“No one wants to go to work and be worried they might come home to their family with a deadly virus,” Murray said.

The White House sees the vaccinations as the quickest way to end a pandemic that has killed more than 780,000 people in the United States and is still evolving, as seen Wednesday with the country’s first detected case of a troubling new variant.

Courts have knocked back against the mandates, including a ruling this week blocking enforcement of a requirement for some health care workers.

For some Republicans, the court cases and lawmakers’ fears about a potentially disruptive shutdown were factors against engaging in a high-stakes shutdown.

“One of the things I’m a little concerned about is: Why would we make ourselves the object of public attention by creating the specter of a government shutdown?” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a GOP leader.

The administration has pursued vaccine requirements for several groups of workers, but the effort is facing legal setbacks.

A federal judge this week blocked the administration from enforcing a vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states. Earlier, a federal appeals court temporarily halted the OSHA requirement affecting employers with 100 or more workers.

The administration has also put in place policies requiring millions of federal employees and federal contractors, including military troops, to be fully vaccinated. Those efforts are also under challenge.

Polling from The Associated Press shows Americans are divided over Biden’s effort to vaccinate workers, with Democrats overwhelmingly for it while most Republicans are against.

Some Republicans prefer an effort from Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., to vote to reject the administration’s mandates in a congressional review action expected next week, separate from the funding fight.

Separately, some health care providers protested the stopgap spending measure. Hospitals say it does nothing to shield them from Medicare payment cuts scheduled to go into effect amid uncertainty about the new omicron variant.

_____

Associated Press staff writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

In this photo released by the Royal Thai Navy, an aerial view from a navy plane shows cleanup effor...
Associated Press

Thailand deploys more assets as oil slick threatens beaches

BANGKOK (AP) — An aircraft from a company specializing in recoveries from oil spills arrived Thursday from Singapore to join an urgent effort to clean up an oil slick before it could hit beaches in eastern Thailand, officials said. The C-130 joined other planes, ships and a helicopter deployed by the Thai navy to contain […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Poland starts building wall on border with Belarus

KUZNICA, Poland (AP) — Poland has started building a $394 million high wall on its eastern border intended to block migrants pushed by Belarus in what the European Union calls a “hybrid attack” from crossing illegally into EU territory. Reporters were allowed to see the work in the guarded area on Thursday. Pressure from thousands […]
1 day ago
FILE - A member of airport personnel dressed in protective gear leads passengers into the customs a...
Associated Press

Beijing’s Olympic bubble makes a slightly surreal experience

BEIJING (AP) — For journalists covering the Beijing Winter Olympics, China’s strict pandemic measures are creating a surreal and somewhat frustrating experience. China requires electronic confirmation of the health status of those participating in or covering the Games and shunts them into a closed loop bubble upon arrival. That kept Associated Press photo editor Yirmiyan […]
1 day ago
FILE- Air India planes are parked at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, Monda...
Associated Press

Tata group regains control of debt-laden Air India

NEW DELHI (AP) — Tata Sons, India’s oldest and largest conglomerate, has regained ownership of Air India, the country’s debt-laden national carrier. Tata pioneered commercial aviation in India when it launched the airline in 1932. It was taken over by the government in 1953. Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

European force “deeply regrets” Mali telling Danes to leave

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A European counterterrorism operation in Mali is telling the Malian transitional government that the presence of Danish troops on its soil is legal and is calling on the rulers in the volatile West African nation “to respect the solid grounds on which our diplomatic and operational cooperation are based.” The move […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Israel, Cyprus, Greece electricity cable link gets EU money

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The European Union has earmarked 657 million euros ($736 million) for the construction of a a 2,000-megawatt undersea electricity cable that will link the power grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said Thursday. Pilides told reporters the funding is Cyprus’ largest-ever investment as well as the […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Senate passes stopgap funding bill, avoiding shutdown