Washington, Sep 28 (EFE).- The US Senate on Thursday took a first step toward approving a bill to fund the activities of federal agencies until mid-November, which would prevent the government from shutting down after midnight on Saturday when available funds run out.
Both Senate Democrats and Republicans voted for a procedural step to begin formal debate on the bill, which would extend government funding temporarily for six weeks, through Nov. 17.
“Congress has only one option to avoid a shutdown: bipartisanship,” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor.
With 77 votes in favor and 19 against, the Senate began the debate on the bill, which must still overcome several obstacles before being approved in the Upper House, where the Democrats have a majority, and then be debated and put to a vote in the House of Representatives, in Republican hands.
It is not expected that the Senate will be able to vote on this measure before the government runs out of funds at midnight September 30, when a new fiscal year begins.
The main obstacle in this process is Republican Senator Rand Paul, who is doing everything he can to slow down the bill’s approval because it contains military aid for Ukraine, something he and the wing of the party most sympathetic to former President Donald Trump (2017-2021) oppose.
In addition, Republicans in control of the House of Representatives have already rejected the Senate proposal. They are pursuing their own path to address the situation.
Specifically, House Republicans in the lower chamber plan to vote in the coming hours on bills intended to pass a state budget that includes many cuts to public spending and, moreover, are unlikely to pass in such a short period of time.
This strategy has been driven by Trump-friendly Republicans, who are in total rebellion against their party’s leader in Congress and are reluctant to accept a short-term solution, such as the one proposed by the Senate to fund federal agencies before they run out of funds.
The goal of this hard-line wing of the party is to undo an agreement reached in June between President Joe Biden and the leader of the Lower House, Republican Kevin McCarthy, whereby Congress suspended the US debt limit in exchange for the White House accepting specific limits on government spending.
Those Republicans did not like that deal and want more cuts. Specifically, they seek to set a $1.47 trillion government spending limit by fiscal year 2024, which is $120 billion more in cuts than agreed to.
If the government runs out of funds, most government agencies, museums, and national parks will close their doors, while hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be temporarily out of work and without pay, which could impact the economy. EFE