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BREAKING: Senate Passes House Spending Package, Averting Shutdown

The government will keep on rolling, at least until March 22.

The US Senate voted 75-22 just before 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, to pass the “minibus” of six discretionary spending bills sent up from the House, thus avoiding a shutdown with less than five hours to spare. The funding package now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature. The current continuing resolution keeping the lights on, so to speak, was set to expire at midnight tonight, triggering a partial shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Rocky Road to Passage

Today’s measure got a rocky start in the Senate, with passage initially seeming far from certain. First, the 10 a.m. quorum call failed, resulting in an hour-and-a-half-long roll call vote (final result: 72-18) to “Instruct the Sergeant at Arms to Request the Presence of Absent Senators.” That was followed by a speech by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who argued against the spending bills. The gentleman from Kentucky denounced the 6,000 or so earmarks in today’s package, highlighting a top-ten list of legislative pork he called his “terrible ten” and speculating that there would likely be another 6,000 in the next six bills. Sen. Paul argued that taxing everyone for the general welfare and then spending it on state, municipal, and even private corporate interests is unconstitutional.

His speech was followed by conflicting partisan amendment motions, resulting in a Republican-led attempt to table the vote, which failed 45-52. The vote to invoke cloture, ending debate, passed 63-35, setting up the final vote, though that didn’t come until after many hours of speeches and several failed amendment attempts. The White House announced after the vote that the executive branch was halting shutdown preparations and that President Biden would sign the bill on Saturday.

Shutdown Averted – For Now

These first six spending bills fund their projects through September of 2024, but it averts government shutdown only until March 22, when the other half of the required 12 annual appropriations must either pass, be delayed by continuing resolution, or fail, allowing funding to run out.

As hotly contested as this minibus was in both chambers of Congress, the other six are considered more divisive.

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