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Congress Avoided a Government Shutdown—What Has Happened Since?

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Congress averted a shutdown on Sept. 30 by mere hours, passing a measure that extends government funding for the next 45 days. The stopgap bill funds the government at the current $1.6 trillion annual rate until Nov. 17, the deadline by which it needs to pass another bill to avoid a government shutdown.

But while the Senate’s 88 to 9 vote salvaged the wages of millions of federal employees and social security payments for those in need, the act omitted funding for what some deem critical—including Ukraine aid—and increased tensions between Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his colleagues, costing him the speakership in a historic vote on Oct. 3.

McCarthy attempted to pass a separate resolution that would better appease his far-right colleagues on Sept. 29, but that bill fell short by 21 votes, prompting the Speaker to seek an alternative route. "It's alright if Republicans and Democrats join together to do what is right,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy faced criticism from the President for his failure to abide by funding agreements settled during the debt ceiling deal in May as well as from far-right legislators who ultimately voted to remove him from the speakership on Oct. 3.

“This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, who brought forward the measure to oust McCarthy, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union on Oct. 1.

Now that a government shutdown was avoided, what has happened since and what lies ahead? Find out what you need to know, below.

What is the 45-day funding bill and what does it cover? 

The 45-day stopgap bill provides temporary funding for the government that is on par with the rate of funding in the fiscal year of 2023. The bill funds food assistance programs, federal wages, and allows continued access for Americans using Medicare and Medicaid services, but it is missing provisions on border policy changes and aid to Ukraine.

The bill outlays $16 billion in disaster relief for Americans. Speaking to reporters after announcing the plan, McCarthy acknowledged the recent disasters in Hawaii, Florida, Vermont, and California as the reason for this supplemental funding.

It also allows organizations like the Federal Aviation Administration and National Flood Insurance Program to remain in place. Both of these programs were set to expire on Sept. 30 at midnight if Congress had not acted to avoid a shutdown.

Congress, however, still needs to pass 12 appropriations bills to fund additional federal agencies. But as the House remains without a speaker, no new legislation is being considered on the House floor. 

The search for a new House Speaker continues

The passage of the stopgap bill ultimately brought an end to McCarthy’s speakership, making him the first Speaker to lose power in U.S. history. In a 216-210 vote, 8 Republicans and House Democrats voted to oust McCarthy, who went through a challenging 15 rounds of voting to earn the speakership in January.

Republicans remain divided in their pursuit of a new speaker. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, won an internal nomination in the Republican party over Rep. Austin Scott, but lost three rounds of voting last week after moderate members of Jordan’s party refused to support the right-wing candidate. 

House Republicans hold a slim majority, meaning they don’t need any Democratic votes to select a new speaker, but can only afford to lose very few votes from their own party. Democrats repeatedly spoke out against Jordan, calling him an “insurrectionist.” 

House Republicans have selected as their nominee to be the speaker of the people’s House, the chairman of the chaos caucus, a defender in a dangerous way of dysfunction, and an extremist extraordinaire,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. “His focus has been on peddling lies and conspiracy theories and driving division amongst the American people.”

How does all this impact aid in Ukraine?

While the stopgap bill adhered to some of President Biden’s demands—including the full request for $16 billion in disaster relief—it also notably failed to provide additional funding for Ukraine. Some $113 billion has been sent to Ukraine since Feb. 2022, Reuters reports.

Biden asked Congress on Oct. 20 to approve another $61.4 billion for Ukraine, including $44.4 billion to provide Department of Defense equipment for the country, to replenish weapons stocks and to continue providing other military support, Politico reported

Before the House lost its leader, lawmakers indicated that they may vote on aid to Ukraine in a separate bill, or through the passage of other legislation. There is some bipartisan support on the matter. House Democratic leadership initially expected McCarthy to move forward a bill to support Ukraine once session resumes, but no such action has taken place because the representative was removed from power.

President Biden has publicly voiced his concern for the lack of aid. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the White House in late September to ask for additional funding, which Democrats seem steadily committed to.

“While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support,” Biden said in his statement, following the signing of the stopgap bill. “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”

Aid to Ukraine may be at jeopardy depending on who wins the House speakership.

Will the Israel-Hamas War impact future funding plans?

The Israel-Hamas War, which began on Oct. 7, has turned attention to a new international issue that seems to be taking precedence over Ukraine. The U.S. is a strong Israeli ally, supporting them with $3.3 billion annually before the war began, and vowing to bring in additional ammunition and personnel to support their efforts. 

Biden also asked Congress on Oct. 20 for $14.3 billion for Israel and $9.15 billion for the State Department to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, Politico reported. 

It’s not clear whether all Democrats will support each part of this request. As of Oct. 20, sixteen progressive Democratic lawmakers had signed on to a resolution pushing for a ceasefire. 

The request also asked for $13.6 billion to address migration and security at the U.S.-Mexico border, including $6.4 billion for border operations, $3.1 billion for border agents, $1.4 billion for migrant shelters and services and $1.2 billion to address the lethal opioid fentanyl.  

Biden also wants billions to invest in U.S. submarine bases and financing for developing countries to counter China’s influence. 

“This is a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden said in a televised Oval Office address making his case. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he would advance $106 billion Biden's proposals as soon as possible, AP reported. 

But the House can’t act on a funding request or pass any bills until it has a permanent speaker or empowers acting Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina, to move legislation.

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