Congress has narrowly avoided a shutdown of the US Government despite the opposition of most Republican legislators.
The Senate voted late Thursday to fund the Government through February 18, avoiding the shutdown at midnight Friday. The chamber overcome a threat by some GOP senators to block the measure without removal of the Biden Administration’s Coronavirus vaccine requirements.
An amendment to defund the vaccine-or-test mandate, ordered by President Joe Biden this autumn, failed. The funding, which also provides $7 billion for the care and resettlement of Afghan refugees, was then approved. The vote was 69-28, with 19 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats.
Earlier the House voted 221-212 to avoid the shutdown. All Democrats who were present voted Yes. They were joined by only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
The House Freedom Caucus of Trumpist and right-wing Republicans lobbied Senate colleagues to block the continuing resolution “unless it prohibits funding – in all respects – for the vaccine mandates and enforcement thereof”. In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Caucus said the Friday deadline was “important leverage” to dismantle the measures to contain Coronavirus.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said after the vote, “I’m glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed — the government will stay open. I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown.”
But Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont cautioned, “This is not a victory lap — we are two months into the fiscal year and appear no closer to getting an agreement on full-year appropriations bills. With this vote we are buying time to complete those negotiations, and we must.”