Bill Averting Government Shutdown Signed Into Law

The partisan battle over the debt limit pushed lawmakers right up to the Oct. 1 funding deadline.

Photo: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—President Biden signed a bill Thursday evening extending government funding through Dec. 3, averting a partial shutdown hours before current funding expires at midnight.

The bill passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support earlier in the day. The legislation, which also includes $28.6 billion in emergency disaster aid and $6.3 billion to help resettle Afghan evacuees, passed 65-35 in the Senate, and 254 to 175 a few hours later in the House.

Democrats had initially sought to attach a suspension of the debt ceiling to the funding bill, but Republicans have refused to vote to increase the government’s borrowing limit, tanking that effort in the Senate.

The continuing partisan battle over the debt, which Congress must resolve before the government exhausts its cash reserves as soon as Oct. 18, has pushed lawmakers right up to the Oct. 1 funding deadline, though Congress often extends government spending at the last minute.

Even a brief shutdown would trigger furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers, but critical functions like border security, benefits checks and airport operations would continue.

The Office of Management and Budget began preparing earlier in September for a possible funding lapse. Federal agencies have detailed contingency plans that spell out which employees will be furloughed and which may need to continue working, as well as which agency functions will temporarily stop and which will continue.

Republican amendments to the bill that the Senate voted on Thursday sought to limit Afghan evacuees’ eligibility for government benefits, prevent federal funds from being used for Covid-19 vaccine mandates and cut lawmakers’ pay if they don’t approve spending legislation on time. Each of the measures failed.

As the federal debt and budget deficits grow in Washington, it’s unclear whether Democrats and Republicans are concerned. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib examines where each party stands on the issue. Photo illustration: Todd Johnson

The push to keep the government running comes amid an effort to pass a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Thursday. The public works legislation, which passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support, is caught up in a tug of war between the moderate and progressive wings of Democratic Party. Progressives are threatening to block the infrastructure bill unless moderate members sign on to supporting a separate, broader bill focused on climate change, education, and healthcare.

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Appeared in the October 1, 2021, print edition as ‘Measure Averting Shutdown Is Signed.’