President Joe Biden signed a continuing resolution Friday to keep funding federal government operations for another three months, avoiding a government shutdown.
The passed the Senate late last night by a margin of 69-28, while the House had approved the same measure earlier in the day on a party line vote, with only one Republican voting in favor.
Although the measure leaves federal agency funding streams in a zombie-like state — simply continuing budgets and programs that were first approved for the fiscal year that started on Oct. 1, 2020, it averts a government shutdown that would otherwise have happened on Friday evening. It extends current funding levels through Feb. 18.
The eventual agreement on the latest CR had been held up by some Republican members’ demands that any funding extension also include a prohibition on funding for the Biden Administration’s various vaccine mandates. In the end, Senators agreed to separate vaccination issues into a separate amendment.
The amendment, which failed on a 48-50 vote, would have barred the administration from demanding vaccinations for large, private employers via an Occupational Health and Safety Administration rule and health care providers via the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and would have also blocked vaccine requirements for federal employees and contractors.
Each of those mandates are also being challenged via separate lawsuits — and except for the one targeting federal employees, each has seen at least one successful court challenge.
The House passed the measure Thursday by a 221-212 vote. The Republican leadership urged members to vote no; the lone GOP vote for the bill came from Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
Lawmakers bemoaned the short-term fix and blamed the opposing party for the lack of progress on this year’s spending bills. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the measure would, however, allow for negotiations on a package covering the full budget year through September.
“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Some Republicans opposed to Biden’s vaccine rules wanted Congress to take a hard stand against the mandated shots for workers at larger businesses, even if that meant shutting down federal offices over the weekend by blocking a request that would expedite a final vote on the spending bill.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Democrats knew last month that several Republicans would use all means at their disposal to oppose legislation that funds or allows the enforcement of the employer vaccine mandate. He blamed Schumer for not negotiating and for ignoring their position.
If the choice is between “suspending nonessential functions” or standing idle while Americans lose their ability to work, “I’ll stand with American workers every time,” Lee said.
Lee said millions were being forced to choose between an unwanted medical procedure and losing their job.
“Their jobs are being threatened by their own government,” Lee said.
“Let’s give employers certainty and employees peace of mind that they will still have a job this new year,” Marshall urged before the vote.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., countered that the federal government should be using every tool to keep Americans safe and that is why the Biden administration has taken steps to urge employers to make sure their workers are fully vaccinated or test negative before they come to the workplace.
“No one wants to go to work and be worried they might come home to their family with a deadly virus,” Murray said.