The federal government will remain open as the Senate on late Wednesday joined the House in passing a stopgap funding measure that will extend the previous year’s funding in two stages through Feb. 2.
The bill passed 87-11 in the upper chamber. It now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke on the floor in support of the measure prior to its passage by the Senate.
“I have good news for the American people: this Friday night, there will be no government shutdown,” Mr. Schumer said, calling the measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), “a great outcome.”
Mr. Schumer added, “I am pleased that Speaker Johnson realized he needed Democratic votes to avoid a shutdown. If the speaker is willing to work with Democrats and resist the siren song of the hard right in the House, then we can work avoid shutdowns in the future and finish the work of funding the government.”
Mr. Schumer added that the CR offered by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) was “a good first step and a very good omen for the future.”
The bill, which has been labeled a “laddered” CR, will fund four broad areas of the federal government through Jan. 19 and the remaining eight through Feb. 2. This allows Congress another 60-75 days to complete the 12 spending bills that were due on Sept. 30.
The House passed the laddered bill on Nov. 14 over the objection of 93 Republicans who refused to continue the 2023 funding levels and priorities enacted by Democrats nearly a year ago.
The extension comes amid an ongoing effort by fiscal conservatives in the House both to reduce what they see as runaway federal spending and to reform the way Congress makes spending decisions.
Congress has completed all 12 of the required spending bills by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, only four times in the last 50 years. That has resulted in the almost constant use of stop-gap extensions followed by an up-or-down vote on a single, massive bill to fund the entire government.
Determined to break that cycle, Republican fiscal hawks have pushed for the House to return to regular order, the process by which members are allowed a minimum of three days to review legislation, have it vetted through a committee, and have the opportunity to debate the measure and offer amendments from the House floor.
At the same time, they have fought to reduce federal spending and, along with it, the ballooning federal debt. Republicans have pushed for a return to pre-pandemic spending levels in 2024, though former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) agreed to a smaller spending cut in debt-ceiling negotiations with President Biden.
This year, passage of the 12 required spending bills was delayed by several factors, including a month-long delay by the president in submitting his annual budget request, and protracted negotiations over raising the nation’s debt limit.
Infighting among House Republicans also produced delays due to disagreements on how aggressively to pursue the GOP agenda, and the ouster of the former speaker, which brought House business to a halt for three weeks in October.
Congress now has 65 days to complete work on the four spending bills covering the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Water, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. The remaining eight bills must be finished 13 days later.
The Republican majority in the House has passed seven of the 12 bills, accounting for more than 75 percent of discretionary spending. However, the new House Speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), has had difficulty finding agreement on the remaining five bills.
When the House returns on Nov. 28, Mr. Johnson will likely move quickly to revise three bills that have failed to gain support. They are bills funding the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development; and Commerce, Justice, and related agencies; as well as Financial Services and General Government.
The Senate has passed three spending bills in a single vote accounting for about 17 percent of discretionary spending. Both chambers must agree on the spending levels before they can be signed into law.
Mr. Johnson has said he aims to complete the House versions of these bills ahead of the Senate in order to gain a strong negotiating position.
Fiscal hawks have amplified that point, including Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who criticized the passage of a stop-gap funding bill just ahead of Thanksgiving that did not reflect Republican priorities.
“I would have shoved down the throats of the United States Senate a funding bill that included [support for] Israel and dared Chuck Schumer to shut the government down and go home and eat turkey,” Mr. Roy said in an impassioned Nov. 15 floor speech.
The battle between the House and Senate will likely come down to two points, the overall top-line of discretionary spending, and the specific programs that are reduced or cut.
Republicans aim to cut discretionary spending to approximately $1.5 trillion. They aim to do that, in part, by dismantling some funding priorities and programs favored by the Biden administration. That includes clawing back some $85 million provided to the IRS over 10 years through the Inflation Reduction Act, eliminating green-energy tax rebates, eliminating funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and cuts to social programs.
Senate Democrats are likely to push for an overall higher top-line in spending in keeping with the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed in May. That law calls for a 1 percent overall cut in discretionary spending for two years with a cap on spending growth thereafter.
Democrats will also resist cuts to social welfare spending and programs that they see as signature achievements of President Biden.
Joseph Lord contributed to this report.