WASHINGTON - The House passed a bill Thursday that funds the government through February 18 and avoids a short-term shutdown after midnight Friday, but quick Senate approval was in doubt because of a fight over President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
An agreement among congressional leaders announced earlier in the day would keep the government running for 11 more weeks, generally at current spending levels while adding $7 billion to aid Afghanistan evacuees.
FILE - Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, May 12, 2021.
The Democratic-led House passed the measure 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 remainder of the budget year through September.
'Make no mistake, a vote against this continuing resolution is a vote to shut government down,' DeLauro said during the House debate.
Before the House acted, Biden said he had spoken with Senate leaders and he played down fears of a shutdown.
'There is a plan in place unless somebody decides to be totally erratic, and I don't think that will happen,' Biden said.
Conservative Republicans opposed to Biden's vaccine rules want Congress to take a hard stand against the mandated shots for workers at larger businesses, even if that means shutting down federal offices over the weekend.
It was just the latest instance of the brinkmanship around government funding that has triggered several costly shutdowns and partial closures over the past two decades. The longest shutdown in history happened under President Donald Trump - 35 days stretching into January 2019, when Democrats refused to approve money for his U.S-Mexico border wall. Both parties agree the stoppages are irresponsible, yet few deadlines pass without a late scramble to avoid them.
Democrats were able to use their majority to advance the spending bill. They have a more difficult task in the 50-50 Senate, where objections by just one senator can slow a final vote past Friday's midnight deadline. That could mean a short-term shutdown into the weekend.