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Monday, December 4, 2023
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Senate sends Biden bill averting federal shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate has given final approval to legislation averting a weekend government shutdown, sending United States (US) President Joe Biden a measure designed to give bipartisan bargainers more time to reach an overdue deal financing federal agencies until fall.

Final passage on Thursday was by a bipartisan 65-27 vote, five more than the 60 votes needed. The House easily approved the legislation last week. Each party had concluded that an election-year shutdown would be politically damaging, especially during a pandemic and a confrontation with Russia over its possible invasion of Ukraine.

Yet as with virtually all must-pass bills, politics hitched a ride. Before passage, conservatives forced votes on amendments including on one of the year’s hot-button issues, COVID-19 vaccine mandates. They were defeated mostly along party lines.

One by Senator Mike Lee and several colleagues would have blocked existing federal vaccine requirements for the military, government employees and contractors and healthcare workers. Another by Senator Ted Cruz would have halted federal funds for school districts imposing their own vaccine requirements.

Senator Mike Braun proposed another requiring Congress’ non-binding federal budgets to balance within 10 years.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the Capitol in Washington. PHOTO: AP

United Democrats can defeat GOP proposals in the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. But with Harris in Europe and some Democrats missing because of illness or ailing spouses, Democrats prevailed after several Republicans also left for travel or to begin the chamber’s recess.

A separate GOP move to block federal spending on pipes used for crack faded away after the Biden administration said it never planned to do that and would not. The money is part of a programme aimed at helping drug abusers avoid hurting themselves further.

Amending the bill would have caused complications because the House is also gone for recess but would have had to pass the revamped version before sending it to Biden.

Without Senate passage of the identical House bill, agencies would have had to stop functioning over the weekend. The legislation will finance government through March 11.


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