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US Congress approves stopgap measure to avert govt shutdown

US Congress approves stopgap measure to avert govt shutdownThe US Congress on Thursday (Feb 29) passed a short-term spending measure that would keep one set of federal agencies operating through March 8 and another set through March 22. According to a report by the news agency Associated Press, the passage of the stopgap funding bill would avoid a shutdown for parts of the federal government that would otherwise kick in Saturday.

Five months into the fiscal year, Congress still has not approved the 12 annual spending bills that make up the federal budget. On Thursday, it passed the measure extending the deadline for the first six bills.

The measure has now gone to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The report said that the short-term extension was the fourth in recent months and many lawmakers expect it to be the last for the current fiscal year.

Measure clears two-thirds majority needed to be passed

The vote to approve the extension was 320-99. It easily cleared the two-thirds majority needed for passage. The report added that Democrats overwhelmingly voted to avert a partial shutdown. However, the vote was divided with Republicans, 113 in support and 97 against.

The Senate then took up the bill and approved it during an evening vote of 77-13.

Ahead of the voting process, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “When we pass this bill, we will have, thank God, avoided a shutdown with all its harmful effects on the American people.”

Next week, the House and Senate are expected to take up a package of six spending bills and get them to President Biden before March 8. Then, lawmakers would work to fund the rest of the government by the new March 22 deadline, the report added.

The temporary extension funds the departments of agriculture, transportation, interior, and others through March 8. It funds the Pentagon, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the State Department through March 22.

Biden called Thursday’s vote good news for the citizens, but added, “I want to be clear: this is a short-term fix – not a long-term solution.” In 2023, Biden cut a deal with Republicans last year mandating tens of billions of dollars in automatic cuts if lawmakers fail to pass full-year spending bills by April.

On Tuesday, the president called a rare Oval Office meeting for congressional leaders to jolt them into striking a deal on the budget, and to unblock vital aid for war-torn Ukraine.

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