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Biden Signs Funding Bill, Avoiding A Shutdown, But Other Standoffs Persist

Congress is moving to avert one crisis while putting off another. Both the House and Senate approved legislation Thursday that would fund the federal government through Dec. 3.
Samuel Corum
Getty Images
Congress is moving to avert one crisis while putting off another. Both the House and Senate approved legislation Thursday that would fund the federal government through Dec. 3.

Updated September 30, 2021 at 7:33 PM ET

President Biden has signed a short-term funding bill, avoiding a partial government shutdown that would have begun at midnight.

The Senate and House sprinted Thursday afternoon to pass the legislation, which will keep the government funded through Dec. 3.

The bill also includes $28.6 billion for communities hit by natural disasters over the past 18 months and $6.3 billion to help support resettlement for Afghan refugees.

The House vote was 254-175. The Senate OK'd the legislation, 65-35, about two hours before House passage.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had said she expected strong support from both parties. A few dozen Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats.

Any good feelings and bipartisanship from the vote aren't expected to extend to other pressing legislation, such as addressing the debt limit.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has insisted that Republicans will not help Democrats pass any legislation to increase the federal borrowing cap. The Treasury Department estimates the federal government is at risk of default if Congress does not act in the next few weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
Patrick Semansky / AP
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

"As I've explained since July, Democrats need to begin the fast-track process for handling that issue through reconciliation," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "Clumsy attempts at partisan jams by the majority will not change that reality."

Democrats are also facing divisions within their own party that threaten to derail the vast majority of Biden's domestic agenda.

There's still a serious rift on infrastructure and a $3.5 trillion spending package

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, but leaders must first overcome a serious rift between centrist and progressive Democrats. Progressives are insisting they will not vote for the bipartisan bill without an agreement on a separate multitrillion-dollar social spending package.

Moderate Democrats have said they do not support the top-line figure of $3.5 trillion. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., reiterated Thursday that he's willing to go as high as $1.5 trillion.

"I'm willing to sit down and work through that $1.5 [trillion] to get our priorities," Manchin said.

He added that if other Democrats want to do more than that they can campaign on it and do it later. "I think there is many ways to get to where they want to, just not everything at one time."

Democrats need to be in near-unanimous agreement for either bill to pass.

Pelosi told reporters she is still negotiating with both sides. And she offered an upbeat assessment when asked if she still plans to hold the vote.

"I'm only envisioning taking it up and winning it," Pelosi said. "I do not plan on not doing anything. I plan on moving forward in a positive way."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.