US Senate temporarily avoids government shutdown

WASHINGTON (AFP): The US Senate passed a stop-gap funding bill Thursday, after threats by some Republicans earlier in the week risked a damaging government shutdown.

The bill, which passed by 65 votes to 27, will extend federal spending at current levels until March 11.

Had the bill not passed by Friday at midnight, the federal government would have entered a costly shutdown, with hundreds of thousands of government employees furloughed and all non-essential offices closed.

The House of Representatives passed the bill, the third such stop-gap spending text in less than five months, on February 8. It now goes to President Joe Biden to sign it into law.

Nineteen Republican senators joined Democrats in voting for the bill, putting it above the threshold of a filibuster.

Despite some threats from Republicans to hold up the process, a shutdown was highly unlikely.

Most elected officials on both sides of the aisle signaled they did not want a shutdown, which would create havoc by sending millions of public workers home without pay.

The stop-gap funding gives lawmakers some more time to reach a long-term spending package to cover the rest of the fiscal year through September 30.

Rank-and-file members in both chambers have also warned that if Congress cannot move beyond temporary fixes, billions of dollars made available last year through the $1.2-trillion infrastructure package will remain in limbo.

Biden, who has been traveling the country touting his infrastructure deal, is eager for a fresh congressional victory, as his approval ratings crumble a few months before crucial midterm elections.