US lawmakers avert gov’t shutdown

Washington, Sep 30 (EFE).- The United States Congress took action Thursday to avoid a partial shutdown of the government due to the imminent expiration of funding.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted 254-175 in favor of a measure approved hours earlier by the closely divided Senate to keep the government functioning normally through Dec. 3.

The bill goes now to Democratic President Joe Biden for his signature.

Around a dozen Republican senators joined the 50 Democrats to pass the measure, which also includes money to assist communities struck by recent natural disasters and for resettlement of Afghan refugees.

Republicans rebuffed a proposal by Democrats to combine the bill to extend government funding beyond midnight Thursday with increasing the debt limit.

While increases in the debt limit tend to be more or less automatic when the same party controls both Congress and the White House, they can be the occasion for protracted acrimony in periods of divided government.

Each party currently holds 50 Senate seats, but the Democrats enjoy organizational control by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ role as presiding officer of the chamber.

Yet because the Senate retains the legislative tool known as the filibuster, the Republicans are in a position to block legislation and they appear determined to force the Democrats to use a procedure called reconciliation to raise the debt limit.

The government has been forced to shut down a score of times since the enactment of the current budget laws in 1976, albeit for only a day or two on most of those occasions.

In early 2019, however, government operations were hobbled for 35 days amid a fight between the White House and Democrats in Congress over then-President Donald Trump’s demand for funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she planned to proceed with a vote Thursday night on a bipartisan infrastructure bill even though a significant number of progressive Democrats pledged to vote against the measure over the unwillingness of some Democratic senators to support a $3.5 trillion package of social spending.

Progressives had agreed to back the infrastructure legislation on the condition that “moderate” Democrats voted for the larger bill.

EFE bpm/dr

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