Senate Advances Stopgap Bill to Avert a Partial Shutdown


The Senate on Tuesday took the first step in advancing a stopgap spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of the week, buying time to enact a broader bipartisan funding agreement for the remainder of the year.

By a 68-to-13 vote, senators voted to take up the legislation, which would temporarily extend funding for some federal agencies until March 1 and for others through March 8. It would keep spending levels flat while lawmakers and aides hammer out the details of a $1.66 trillion deal reached between Speaker Mike Johnson, the Louisiana Republican, and Democrats.

The lopsided vote reflected broad backing in the Senate for a measure that faces a much more complicated path in the House, where far-right Republicans are in revolt over the spending agreement and refusing to back it. Their opposition means that Mr. Johnson is all but certain to be forced once again to turn to Democrats for help in passing crucial spending legislation, in a vote expected later this week.

“The key to finishing our work this week will be bipartisan cooperation in both chambers,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “You can’t pass these bills without support from Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate.”

He warned that “a small group of hard-right extremists seem dead set on making the shutdown a reality.”

It was unclear whether conservatives in the Senate who are opposed to the deal would try to slow its consideration. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, signaled his support for the bill.

“Shutting down the government — even part of it — would interrupt this important progress” of passing the 12 individual spending bills that fund the government, he said.

In the House, Republicans’ razor-thin majority and hard-line members’ resistance to the legislation mean that Mr. Johnson will be unable to pass it without solid Democratic backing, along with help from mainstream Republicans.

Members of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus have balked at the spending deal, saying they would prefer a shutdown to a funding bill that keeps spending flat and imposes no new policies cracking down on migration at the United States border with Mexico.

“If the border is not secured, this government does not deserve to be funded,” Representative Byron Donalds of Florida said on Fox News on Sunday. “We will fund the Department of Defense, we’ll pay our troops, we’ll take care of our veterans and V.A., we’ll even make sure our border agents are paid to have some semblance of security. But the rest of this government doesn’t deserve money if our border continues to be open the way that it is.”

The temporary extension of government funding could tee up a fierce fight over conservative policy provisions that House Republicans insist must be part of any spending legislation. They have loaded their funding bills with a series of partisan policy mandates aimed at amplifying political battles on social issues — such as restrictions on abortion, transgender rights and diversity initiatives — that House and Senate Democrats have declared nonstarters.

Mr. Johnson, who has infuriated the right by agreeing to the overall spending agreement with Democrats, has signaled he intends to allow such policy proposals to be attached to the funding bills needed to enact that deal into law.

“We have the top-line agreement,” Mr. Johnson said last week. “This allows us to fight for our policy priorities, for our policy riders now. And our appropriators are resolute on doing that.”

But the proposals are all but certain to die in the Senate, making it likely that Mr. Johnson will be forced to drop them or once again face the threat of a shutdown, unless he again turns to Democrats to push through a final package.



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