A temporary financing agreement has been reached between the House of Representatives and the Senate, which means that a shutdown of the federal government will not occur.
A bill that would have guaranteed financing until November 17 was passed with an overwhelming majority of votes, and President Joe Biden signed it into law only minutes before the deadline.
In spite of this, it does not include any additional assistance for Ukraine, which is a major disappointment for the Democrats, for whom this was an essential requirement.
The bill was introduced by Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over opposition from more conservative members of his own party.
At 00:01 Eastern Time (04:01 GMT) on Sunday, a shutdown of the federal government was scheduled to begin, which would result in the furlough of tens of thousands of federal employees without pay and the suspension of a variety of government services.
A Democrat has denied that they pulled the fire alarm in order to delay the vote on the spending bill.
However, in a dramatic turn of events on Saturday afternoon, Mr. McCarthy decided to put to a vote the temporary funding measure that would keep the government operating. This measure includes funding for natural disasters but makes no major concessions on spending levels, which is a key demand of the Republicans controlling the lower house.
The vast majority of representatives wanted to avoid a government shutdown, and the bill had support from a greater number of Democrats than from Republicans; yet, as many as 90 Republicans in the House voted against it.
The action was a setback to a small number of right-wing Republicans who have been holding up negotiations in the chamber with their stubborn demands for expenditure cuts and no additional help for Ukraine. The move was a blow to the group.
And because the vote was immediately followed by the adjournment of the House, the Senate, which had already agreed to its own bill that included assistance for Ukraine, was left with little alternative but to pick up the legislation that had been passed by the House. There were just nine senators who voted against it, and they were all Republicans.
Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, issued a statement shortly after the vote in the Senate, in which he accused “extreme House Republicans” of trying to fabricate a crisis and encouraged Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, to allow a subsequent funding package for Ukraine to be approved without additional delay.
He made the following statement: “We cannot under any circumstances allow the American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”
In a move that was somewhat unprecedented, senior Senate leaders from both parties, including the head of the minority party, Mitch McConnell, issued a joint statement in which they signaled their desire to “ensure the US government continues to provide” support to Ukraine in the weeks to come.
It arose as a result of Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado who supports increased financing for Kyiv, holding up Saturday’s proceedings in protest over the absence of guarantees for Ukraine included in the accord. Bennet is in favor of more cash for Kyiv.
Since Russia began its all-out invasion of Ukraine a year ago, the United States Congress has authorized over $113 billion (£92 billion) in financial, military, and humanitarian assistance for the country. Another $24 billion has been requested by President Biden.
What happens when the government of the United States shuts down?
When both houses of Congress are unable to reach an agreement on the approximately 30 percent of federal expenditure that they are required to authorize prior to the beginning of each fiscal year on October 1, a shutdown of the government takes place.
Given that the Democrats only have one seat more than the Republicans in the Senate and the Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House, any financing legislation needs to have support from both parties.
In the past few weeks, radical right-wingers have been successful in blocking the passage of spending bills through the House of Representatives.
The organization has been vocal in its opposition to short-term expenditure initiatives and has advocated for making reductions through the passage of long-term spending legislation containing agency-specific savings, despite the fact that such bills have an extremely low probability of getting through the Senate.
Since Mr. McCarthy’s most staunchly conservative party members would be enraged if he relied on Democratic votes to get the bill through the House up until the very last second, he was particularly hesitant to do so until the very end.
Because Republicans and Democrats, as well as Republicans among themselves, continue to disagree fundamentally about how much money the government should spend and what policies it should pursue, it is likely that we will have to go through this drama all over again in fewer than seven weeks.
In the meantime, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida and other staunch conservatives in the House need to decide what course of action to take.
It was rumored that Mr. McCarthy’s choice to rely on Democratic votes to pass the short-term measure was a red line that, if crossed, would inspire an attempt to remove the Speaker from his position of leadership by triggering a so-called motion to vacate. However, Mr. McCarthy decided to rely on Democratic votes to pass the short-term bill.
During the news conference that Mr. McCarthy held on Saturday, he issued a challenge to anyone who disagree with him, telling them to “bring it” and adding, “There has to be an adult in the room.”
In the coming days, it will become clear if Mr. Gaetz and his associates were serious about their threat or whether they were simply bluffing.