The House passed a one-week stopgap spending bill on Wednesday in a 343-67 vote, shifting the government funding deadline from Friday at midnight to Dec. 18.
The bill passed under suspension of the rules, meaning it required two thirds of the lower chamber’s approval. The measure now heads to the Senate, which is expected to take it up on Thursday.
How we got here: Lawmakers have funded the government by a continuing resolution since September, with the annual appropriations process falling victim to election-year politics, as usual.
Now, congressional leaders and appropriators are in the middle of negotiating a $1.4 trillion, 12-bill spending package that will increase agency budgets for the rest of the fiscal year, hoping to pair that funding bundle with desperately needed coronavirus relief.
The stakes: Millions of Americans are set to lose a critical safety net as a number of pandemic assistance provisions expire at the end of the month. A government shutdown on top of that would be a true nightmare scenario.
“If we do not act, 12 million Americans could lose unemployment aid just after Christmas and millions more access to paid sick leave and protections against evictions,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the incoming chair of the House Appropriations Committee, on the House floor. “This will put working families over the edge and our economy closer to the financial cliff.“
Plan B: If lawmakers can’t reach an agreement on a massive spending package by Dec. 18, they can avoid a shutdown by passing another CR that extends current government funding into early next year.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the one-week stopgap amounts to “an admission of failure.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said, but “we ought not to believe or pretend or represent that this is the way we ought to do business. It is not. It is a function of procrastination, a function of failing to come together and making compromise.”