Biden signs stopgap measure to avoid partial government shutdown

The measure keeps funding going until early March.

January 19, 2024, 2:26 PM

President Joe Biden on Friday signed a stopgap measure to avoid a partial government shutdown that would have taken effect at the end of the day, the White House said.

The measure keeping government funding going for a few more weeks until early March while Republicans and Democrats continue fighting over spending.

Lawmakers on Thursday narrowly averted a partial government shutdown, buying a few extra weeks to try to work out an agreement on a set of bills that will fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

After several days of nail-biting over Friday's looming deadline, which would have seen four of 12 government funding bills expiring, both chambers passed the short-term funding bill -- allowing them to get out of town as another snowstorm headed toward the East Coast.

The legislation extends the funding expiration date for the four government funding bills set to expire on Friday to March 1. The other eight bills, which were set to run out of funding on Feb. 2, will now run out of funds on March 8.

"Avoiding a shutdown is very good news for the country, for our veterans, for parents and children, and for farmers and small businesses, all of whom would have felt the sting of the government shutdown," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor. "And this is what the American people want to see. Both sides working together and governing responsibly. No chaos, no spectacle, no shutdown."

The Senate easily passed the short-term funding bill by an overwhelming vote of 77-18. The House passed it 314-108.

House Freedom Caucus members unsuccessfully pushed for Johnson to add a last-minute border amendment to the stopgap funding bill. Ahead of the vote, the House Freedom Caucus put out a statement urging all Republicans to oppose the funding measure.

"Speaker Mike Johnson should walk away from his agreement with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and pass an appropriations package that meaningfully reduces spending year-over-year and secures our southern border. That is what winning looks like," the statement said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, standing next to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries talks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Jan. 17, 2024, following a meeting with President Joe Biden.
Susan Walsh/AP

The short-term bill buys Congress some additional breathing room, but it ultimately does little to resolve the longer-term questions about government funding that have plagued this Congress, which has already extended its deadline to complete work on government funding twice before, for months.

It's not clear if this extra bit of time will finally make the difference, despite a breakthrough in negotiations between the House and Senate that has allowed for expedited work on longer-term funding bills.

Earlier this month, Schumer and Johnson reached an agreement on the overall cost of government funding bills after months of squabbling over the matter as House Republicans sought to exact funding cuts greater than those previously agreed to by President Joe Biden and former-Speaker Kevin McCarthy during negotiations over the federal debt limit.

Johnson and Schumer finally settled the matter by announcing they would keep levels consistent with the Biden-McCarthy agreement, inspiring renewed confidence that these extra few weeks could be the magic push that Congress needs to finally complete its work.

People enjoy the snow outside of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, Jan. 16, 2024.
Leah Millis/Reuters

But there's still a long way to go, and it's not clear whether the extra six weeks Congress is expected to buy itself Thursday will be enough to turn that handshake agreement into legislation that can be voted on and passed -- especially with Speaker Johnson's right flank raging over the deal.

Many of his most right-of-center members are frustrated that Johnson did not fight harder to exact cuts in the agreement.

Johnson has pushed back on that and argued that the stopgap measure that passed Thursday is an important part of his larger effort to secure Republican priorities on the larger government funding bills.

"This is an important thing for us because it allows us to fight for our policy changes, our policy riders, in those spending bills. It takes time to do that. And so, the reason we need just a little more time on the calendar is to allow that process to play out," Johnson said.

But those policy riders are controversial, and Senate Democrats have vowed to block them.

It's teeing up a precarious situation for Johnson as he negotiates the next set of bills.

This all comes as negotiations continue on a separate spending package that would provide aid to Ukraine and Israel and strengthen border security. Johnson is digging in on hard-line demands for more restrictive border reforms despite progress in the Senate on a bipartisan compromise.

To further complicate matters, the House is only scheduled to be in session for 11 legislative days between now and the new March 1 funding deadline. The Senate is scheduled for a two-week recess in February.

The next 40 days could make for a crunch on the clock and for Johnson.

ABC News' Lauren Peller and Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

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