House votes to avoid shutdown, but Senate approval is unlikely, with no quick approval
WASHINGTON (AP) The House passed a bill Thursday that funds the government through Feb. 18 and avoids a short-term shutdown after midnight Friday, but swift Senate approval was in doubt as a result of a fight over President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
An agreement between congressional leaders announced earlier this day would keep the government running for 11 more weeks, mostly at current spending levels while adding $7 billion to aid Afghan evacuees.
The Democratic-led House passed the bill by a 221-212 vote. The Republican leadership was calling on members to vote no; Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger received the lone GOP vote for the bill.
Lawmakers applauded the short-term solution and blame the opposing party for the lack of progress on this year's spending proposals. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the measure would allow for negotiations on a package covering the remainder of the budget year through September.
During the House debate, DeLauro said, "Make no mistake, a vote against this continuing resolution is a vote to shut government down."
Before the House acted, President Joe Biden said he had spoken with Senate leaders and he minimized worries about a shutdown.
There is a plan in place unless somebody decides to be totally immoral, and I dont believe it will happen, Biden explained.
Conservative Republicans opposed to Biden's vaccination procedures want Congress to stand up against the mandated shots for workers at larger businesses, even if this implies shutting down federal offices over the weekend.
Both parties agree that the stopspages are irresponsible, yet few deadlines pass without a late scramble to avoid them. The longest shutdown in history occurred under President Donald Trump 35 days stretching until January 2019, when Democrats refused to approve money for his U.S-Mexico border wall. Both parties agree that the stops are irresponsible, but few deadlines pass without a late scramble to avoid them.
During the discussion, Republicans stated that they had stated clarified in the summer that they would not support spending legislation that include irresponsible spending increases and extreme policies."
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, said, "Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves."
Democrats were able to utilize their majority to help advance the spending bill. They have a more difficult time in the 50-50 Senate, in which oppositions by only one senator may slow a final vote ahead of Friday's midnight deadline, which could result in a short-term shutdown into the weekend.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Democrats were aware last month from a letter that several Republicans would use all of their resources to oppose legislation that funds or allows the enforcement of the employer vaccination mandate. Sen. Mike Lee blamed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., for not negotiating and failing their position.
If the choice is between spending nonessential functions or standing idle while Americans lose their ability to work, Ill stand with American workers every time, Lee stated.
GOP senators have commented on the idea that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would use to take action against the requirement that private employers with 100 or more workers are vaccinated or regularly tested.
During the last government funding standoff, Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., emphasized a similar effort against vaccination procedures.
While most Republicans do not want a shutdown, a few individual Republican senators appear determined to derail this important legislation because of their opposition to the president's lifesaving vaccine guidelines, Schumer stated.
"Let's be clear: if there is a shutdown, it will be a Republican, anti-vaccine shutdown," Schumer added.
According to the White House, vaccinations are the fastest method to eliminate 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 stepped up against the mandates, including a court ruling this week limiting enforcement of a requirement for certain health care workers.
Some Republicans are upset that court cases and lawmakers' concerns about a potentially disruptive shutdown are reasons for a high-stakes shutdown.
One of the things I'm concerned about is how would we make ourselves the object of public attention by creating the specter of a government shutdown? Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a GOP leader, said.
There's too much chaos in our nation right now, too much concern about omicron. The last thing we need is more confusion and worry, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, stated.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated that there will be no shutdown.
We won't do that," he stated on Thursday.
The administration has pursued vaccination requirements for a variety of workers, but the effort is subject to legal challenges.
A federal judge this week barred the administration from enforcing a vaccination 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 enacted regulations that require millions of federal employees and federal contractors, including military troops, to be completely vacate, and these efforts are also under scrutiny.
According to a polling by The Associated Press, Americans are divided over Biden's effort to vaccinate workers, with Democrats supporting it overwhelmingly, while most Republicans are against it.
Some Republicans prefer Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., to vote to reject the administration's mandates in a congressional review process scheduled next week, separate from the funding battle.
Separately, some health care providers opposed the stopgap spending measure, saying it does nothing to protect them from Medicare payment cuts set to go into effect amid concerns about the new omicron variant.
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, the staff writer for Associated Press, contributed to this piece.