The Senate is set to vote Thursday night on a stopgap bill to keep the government funded through mid-February, just hours after the House passed the legislation.
Senate leaders maneuvered to avert a delay which could have triggered a government shutdown by allowing a vote demanded by a group of Republicans on an amendment to block federal vaccine mandates. That measure is expected to fail, clearing the way for action on the temporary funding bill.
“With this agreement, there will be no government shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said
Passage by the Senate would send the legislation to President Joe Biden for his signature, well before the midnight Friday deadline when the current funding for the government expires.
A group of Republican lawmakers led by Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas sought a vote on an amendment that would prohibit funding for the coronavirus vaccine and testing mandates imposed by the Biden administration. They want it to get a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate — rather than the chamber’s usual 60-vote threshold to advance legislation — before agreeing to proceed with a vote on the stopgap bill.
Marshall the vote would probably would fail.
“It looks really tough for us,” he said.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah, one of the Republicans who oppose the vaccine mandates, argued they should be blocked because they infringe on individual freedom and threaten people’s livelihoods.
“It’s wrong,” he said. “You don’t tell someone that if they don’t do exactly what you want them to do, they will lose their job.”
Senator Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican, said he also expects the stopgap to pass after the vote on vaccine amendment fails. He said Democrats will all vote against Marshall’s amendment and pointed out that some Republicans are absent.
GOP Senators John Thune of South Dakota and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee were not present. Thune was attending his father-in-law’s funeral and Hagerty went to see his son, a high school senior, play in a state championship football game, according to their offices.
The funding extension through Feb. 18 puts agencies on autopilot, freezing in place program funding levels and forbidding new contracts, with few exceptions, one of which being $7 billion in funding to aid Afghan evacuees.
Republicans and Democrats showed no signs of being able to resolve the larger impasse blocking full year appropriations bills.
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro called on Republicans to make a full-year funding counteroffer soon to finish work on appropriations bills.
“Let me be clear: Working families, small businesses, veterans, and our military need the certainty that comes with passing omnibus funding legislation instead of short-term funding patches,” DeLauro said on the House floor.
The stopgap does not address automatic cuts to Medicare and other programs slated for January under the so-called Paygo law, despite Democratic efforts to include the provision.