US Congress votes to avert government shutdown at midnight

US Congress votes to avert government shutdown at midnight

US Congress votes to avert government shutdown at midnight

The U.S. Congress voted on a spending plan on Sept. 30 to keep the government running past a midnight deadline, but only temporarily. 

President Joe Biden was expected to sign the so-called continuing resolution, which averts a government shutdown and keeps the government running at current levels at least until Dec. 3. At that point, Congress will either have to vote again to keep the government running temporarily or come up with a longer-term solution.

There have been temporary government shutdowns in years past, but they tend to roil markets, create chaos in government services and leave Congress facing intense criticism.

The vote to approve the spending plan was 65 to 35 in the Senate and 254 to 175 in the House of Representatives.

In the negotiations on the spending plan, Congress agreed to spend $28.6 billion for natural disaster recovery, mostly for the effects of Hurricane Ida, which slammed into the Gulf Coast in early September.

It also includes $6.3 billion to help settle incoming Afghan refugees evacuated after US troops pulled out of Afghanistan in August.

But removed from the spending plan was a proposal for the US to spend $1 billion to help Israel shore up its Iron Dome defense system. Progressive liberal Democrats, critical of Israel, wanted that spending removed, as did some fiscally conservative Republicans who balked at the price tag. Moderate Democrats say they plan to re-introduce Iron Dome spending in a separate bill.

The negotiations for the spending plan also forced Democrats to bend to a Republican demand to remove a suspension of the nation's debt limit through 2022.

Democrats will now have to agree to a series of proposals to raise the debt limit on their own and they will try to do it by Oct. 18, when the debt limit is expected to be reached. Failure to raise the debt limit would force a government debt default and would be catastrophic for the economy. Millions of Americans would lose their Social Security payments, members of the military would not get paid, and it could lead to higher mortgage, car and credit card payments.

Debt limits have been raised before, including twice during the Trump administration.

In the meantime, negotiations are continuing between the White House and Democratic members of Congress over two bills seen as critical to President Biden's agenda: a $550 billion infrastructure bill that would fund things like new bridges and roads and a $3.5 trillion bill that would vastly expand the nation's social safety net. Infighting among liberal and more moderate Democrats on the social safety net bill could derail the infrastructure bill, which polls have shown is popular with a majority of the country.