After Months of Strife, Congress Passes Stopgap Spending Bill Just Hours Before Shutdown

Samantha Miller

Washington – After months of bitter infighting and repeated failures to advance legislation, the House on Saturday passed a stopgap spending measure to keep the government open past a midnight shutdown deadline and provide disaster relief funding. The bill passed with a robust bipartisan 335-91 vote, exceeding the required two-thirds majority needed under the special procedural rules used to expedite passage.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where leaders plan to amend it to include $6 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine. The House bill omitted Ukraine aid due to staunch opposition from some conservative Republicans.

The House vote marked a significant turnaround for GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who just 24 hours earlier suffered another embarrassing defeat when he failed to rally enough Republican support for a more conservative funding bill loaded with border security restrictions and disaster aid.

That loss prompted McCarthy and his leadership team to reverse course and join Democrats in backing the stripped-down spending extension through Nov. 17. The bill keeps spending at current levels to avoid a shutdown when fiscal year 2023 funding expires at midnight Saturday.

McCarthy told reporters before the vote that after eight months of trying unsuccessfully to wrangle his unruly conference, he had simply run out of options.

“I have tried for eight months. It took me a long time to finally get the appropriations bills on the floor; they were delaying. I tried yesterday with the most conservative stopgap funding bill you could find,” McCarthy said. “I couldn’t get 218 Republicans.”

The California Republican implored lawmakers in both parties to put aside partisanship to keep government services flowing and avoid disruptions.

“I want to keep government open,” McCarthy said after a private GOP meeting earlier Saturday. “I am asking Republicans and Democrats alike. Put your partisanship away. Focus on the American public.”

For McCarthy, the spending bill represents a bittersweet victory. Passage cements his status as a survivor who refuses to give up, even in the face of open defiance from some 20 ultraconservative rabble-rousers. But the outcome also underscores his inability to control the most extreme elements of his conference only nine months into the GOP majority.

Democrats faced their own internal divisions over the bill, with some progressives pushing to oppose it without inclusion of the $6 billion in additional Ukraine assistance. In the end, top Democrats rallied behind the measure as the only viable option to avoid a shutdown.

They blasted Republicans for omitting Ukraine aid, but acknowledged McCarthy lacked the leverage to add it back given his fragile hold on power. Democrats were also able to remove a issue in the bill that would have enabled a congressional pay raise.

“I want to keep government open,” McCarthy told reporters after a closed-door conference meeting earlier Saturday, noting that the House still needs to pass eight of 12 spending bills. “I am asking Republicans and Democrats alike. Put your partisanship away. Focus on the American public.”

The House-passed bill includes $16 billion for natural disaster recovery efforts, including Hurricane Ian relief in Florida and wildfire damage in the West. The disaster aid money has bipartisan support, as do provisions extending expiring healthcare programs under the Affordable Care Act.

The legislation allows lawmakers additional time to negotiate full-year spending bills for fiscal 2023. The current stopgap funding ends on Dec. 16.

Congress has relied on short-term extensions for over a year due to deep divisions between Republican and Democratic priorities. McCarthy won the speaker’s gavel in January after promising dissenters he would return to regular order on spending bills.

But McCarthy struggled to get consensus on 10 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, finally bringing a package to the floor in July that exceeded Biden’s requested budget levels by $48 billion. Conservatives balked at the high spending levels and demanded more cuts.

The ensuing months brought endless starts, stops and stalemates as McCarthy tried unsuccessfully to appease both moderates and hardliners in his conference. Things came to a head this week when he was forced to abruptly pull a government funding bill from the floor after conservatives demanded a commitment to later vote on border security legislation.

That embarrassing retreat set the stage for Saturday’s denouement, with McCarthy pivoting to work with Democrats to pass the stripped-down spending patch. The bipartisan vote tally gave McCarthy his largest victory margin to date.

But the outcome only papers over divisions temporarily, setting up a fierce fight next month when the Dec. 16 expiration again threatens a shutdown. McCarthy vowed to keep working to reach an agreement.

“This is not the end. This is just the beginning. We still have to finish our appropriations work,” he said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “I understand people don’t trust Congress, but I want to change that.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, where leaders plan to attach $6 billion in emergency military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. A bipartisan group of Senators negotiated that package this week after McCarthy informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer a Ukraine amendment could not pass the House.

Schumer said the Senate will move swiftly to approve the amended legislation and return it to the House for final passage ahead of the midnight deadline.

“Because of this measure, Ukraine will be able to get through the winter,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Saturday. “With the House having now acted, the Senate will move swiftly for final passage.”

The temporary resolution sets up a holiday season showdown over full-year spending for fiscal 2023. Lawmakers will be under intense pressure to reach an agreement rather than force a shutdown during the height of holiday travel and shopping.

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Samantha Miller is a business and finance journalist with over 10 years of experience covering the latest news and trends shaping the corporate landscape. She began her career at The Wall Street Journal, where she reported on major companies and industry developments. Now, Samantha serve as a senior business writer for, profiling influential executives and providing in-depth analysis on business and financial topics.
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