WASHINGTON - The Senate passed a stopgap spending bill Thursday that avoids a short-term shutdown and funds the federal government through February 18 after leaders defused a partisan standoff over federal vaccine mandates. The measure now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Earlier in the day, congressional leaders announced they had reached an agreement to keep the government running for 11 more weeks, generally at current spending levels, while adding $7 billion to aid Afghanistan evacuees.
Once the House voted to approve the measure, senators soon announced an agreement that would allow them to vote on it quickly.
FILE - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) returns to a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Nov. 16, 2021.
'I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,' said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 69-28.
The Democratic-led House passed the measure by a 221-212 vote. The Republican leadership urged members to vote no; the lone GOP vote for the bill came from Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
Lawmakers bemoaned the short-term fix and blamed the opposing party for the lack of progress on this year's spending bills. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the measure would, however, allow for negotiations on a package covering the full budget year through September.
Before the votes, Biden said he had spoken with Senate leaders and he played down fears of a shutdown.
'There is a plan in place unless somebody decides to be totally erratic, and I don't think that will happen,' Biden said.
Some Republicans opposed to Biden's vaccine rules wanted Congress to take a hard stand against the mandated shots for workers at larger businesses, even if that meant shutting down federal offices over the weekend by blocking a request that would expedite a final vote on the spending bill.
It was just the latest instance of the brinkmanship around government funding that has triggered several costly shutdowns and partial closures over the past two decades.
The longest shutdown in history happened under President Donald Trump - 35 days stretching into January 2019, when Democrats refused to approve money for his U.S-Mexico border wall. Both parties agree the stoppages are irresponsible, yet few deadlines pass without a late scramble to avoid them.