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Senate reaches spending deal to head off government shutdown

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, arrived for votes as Congress returned to work in crisis mode with only a few days to go before a government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement Tuesday on a stopgap spending plan that would head off a government shutdown Sunday while providing billions in disaster relief and aid to Ukraine, but the measure faced resistance in the Republican-led House.

The legislation cleared its first procedural obstacle Tuesday night on a bipartisan vote of 77-19. It would keep government funding flowing through Nov. 17 to allow more time for negotiations over yearlong spending bills and provide about $6 billion for the Ukraine war effort as well as approximately $6 billion for disaster relief in the wake of a series of wildfires and floods.


Senate leaders hoped to pass it by the end of the week and send it to the House in time to avert a shutdown now set to begin at midnight Saturday. But there was no guarantee that Speaker Kevin McCarthy would bring the legislation to the House floor for a vote, since some far-right Republicans have said they would try to remove him from his post if he did.

Still, in putting the legislation forward, Senate leaders in both parties were ratcheting up the pressure on McCarthy, who has failed to put together a temporary spending plan of his own.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said the Senate agreement “will continue to fund the government at present levels while maintaining our commitment to Ukraine’s security and humanitarian needs while also ensuring those impacted by disasters across the country begin to get the resources they need.”

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, urged her colleagues to support the plan, warning that shutdowns “do not accomplish the goals that people who advocate government shutdowns think will be accomplished.”

“I’ve been through two government shutdowns,” Collins said, “and I can tell you they are never good policy.”


The Senate proposal would meet stiff resistance from House Republicans because it includes assistance for Ukraine that many of them oppose and maintains federal funding at current levels. Many House Republicans are demanding steep cuts in even an interim funding plan. As a result, McCarthy would need Democratic votes to pass it, and leaning on Democrats would stir a backlash from his party.

McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that he would not address “hypotheticals” about whether he would put a stopgap plan passed by the Senate to a vote on the House floor. He and his deputies were toiling before a scheduled vote Tuesday evening to round up support to allow a group of yearlong spending bills to come to the floor for debate, even as a group of hard-right Republicans vowed to continue blocking them.

“I heard all this time, they’re going to pass appropriations bills all month,” McCarthy told reporters at a separate news conference later in the day. “Remember, you all wrote about it? They were the good chamber. So when they pass something, come back and ask.”

Senate leaders were hoping the strong bipartisan support for the interim funding bill would represent a show of strength to encourage McCarthy to take up the legislation if it reached the House. Some Senate Republicans backed it despite being uneasy that no new border security was included in the plan but saw moving ahead with the bill as a necessary first step toward skirting a shutdown most saw as damaging as a matter of both politics and policy.


Senate negotiators had considered trying to move forward with a stopgap bill that would simply maintain funding at current levels, considering that might be the least complicated path for McCarthy.

But senators of both parties pressed for some assistance to Ukraine, arguing that to ignore the Biden administration’s request for more aid would be an affront to the US ally after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a personal appeal to members of Congress just last week. Both the Ukraine money and disaster recovery funding are seen as down payments on the full amounts requested by the Biden administration — nearly $25 billion for Ukraine and $16 billion for the disaster recovery fund.

Senators also were hoping that the extra natural disaster aid would attract votes from those who have expressed opposition about backing more funding for Ukraine, but might be unwilling to vote against help for hard-hit states closer to home, such as Hawaii and Florida.

Still, the Ukraine assistance will complicate matters in the Senate. Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and a libertarian, has threatened to use procedural tools available to him to challenge the aid, potentially delaying the Senate bill’s arrival in the House into the weekend.

The so-called continuing resolution would also extend authority for expiring Federal Aviation Administration programs through the end of the year, extend some community health programs, and maintain higher pay for those fighting wildfires as the original source of the firefighting money is running low.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.