House votes to approve bill to avert government shutdown

It now heads to the Senate where it's expected to be blocked.

September 21, 2021, 9:01 PM

The House voted along party lines to pass a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown next week.

The final vote was 220-211.

The bill would fund the government through Dec. 3 and it also includes billions in emergency disaster relief and aid for Afghan evacuees. It also suspends the debt limit through December 2022.

PHOTO: The dome of the Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill,  July 26, 2019.
The dome of the Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill, July 26, 2019.
Erin Scott/Reuters, FILE

Senate Republicans are expected to block the measure later this week because they do not want to vote on raising the debt limit -- which means a shutdown could still happen if funding runs out after midnight on Sept. 30.

Democrats need 10 Republican senators to vote with them, and as of right now, the votes are not there. The path forward to avert a shutdown is unclear as of right now.

Senate Republicans have said they oppose suspending the debt limit because of additional spending measures Democrats are crafting -- even though doing so would pay for previous expenditures. But Senate Democrats worked with Republicans under the Trump administration to raise the debt limit on multiple occasions and said it's a bipartisan responsibility.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit, the U.S. could default on its debt sometime in October, potentially triggering an "economic catastrophe."

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said for weeks they will oppose any measure that raises the debt ceiling, insisting that Democrats can do it alone given their control over all three branches of government.

"Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate Republicans' help with raising the debt limit. I've explained this clearly and consistently for over two months," McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell listens as Senate Minority Whip John Thune addresses reporters following a weekly Republican policy meeting at the Capitol, Sept. 21, 2021.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

But Democrats are pressing ahead and remain optimistic about the bill's prospects, knowing full well the challenge they face in getting Republicans on board.

"It is our hope that Senate Republicans will also do the right thing and stop playing politics around the debt limit," House Democratic caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries said at a press conference Tuesday.

Jeffries indicated that at least a handful of Republicans have publicly expressed they will end up voting for the bill. Democrats need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to back the bill.

"Three times -- during the administration of the former president -- three times House Democrats cooperated in raising the debt ceiling," Jeffries said.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries speaks at a news conference following a caucus meeting at the Capitol, Sept. 21, 2021.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

"Now all of a sudden, they want to jam up the American people and the American economy and our full faith and credit, because they're playing politics?" Jeffries said of Republicans in the Senate.

"Senate Republicans should be hearing from their friends in the big banks and big business, as to how catastrophic a default on our debt would be for industry, for commerce, for the economy and most importantly for the American people," Jeffries added.

Without GOP support, it's unclear how Democrats will plan to tackle the issue of raising or suspending the debt limit alone.

"The debt limit is a shared responsibility, and I urge Congress to come together, in that spirit, on a bipartisan basis as it has in the past to protect the full faith and credit of the United States," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to members over the weekend.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference held to introduce the 'Protecting Our Democracy Act' on Capitol Hill, Sept. 21, 2021.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference held to introduce the 'Protecting Our Democracy Act' on Capitol Hill, Sept. 21, 2021. The 'Protecting Our Democracy Act' is a plan that aims to prevent presidential abuse of power and foreign influence in elections by introducing further checks and balances.
Michael Reynolds/EPA via Shutterstock

The short-term funding bill unveiled on Tuesday extends funding through Dec. 3 for all vital federal agencies, including health, housing, education and public safety programs.

"It is critical that Congress swiftly pass this legislation to support critical education, health, housing and public safety programs and provide emergency help for disaster survivors and Afghan evacuees," House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement Tuesday.

The bill also includes $28.6 billion in emergency disaster relief to address recent natural disasters, including multiple hurricanes and wildfires, severe droughts and winter storms in 2021 and prior years.

Another $6.3 billion would support Afghan evacuees, including funding to temporarily house evacuees at American facilities and in foreign countries, provide necessary security screenings and ultimately resettle eligible evacuees in the United States. The legislation also includes funding to provide humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees in neighboring countries.

The legislation suspends the debt limit through December 2022.

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