Government shutdown: Lawmakers race the clock ahead of midnight deadline

Lawmakers are racing the clock with the Senate and House both expected to vote to approve a short-term funding patch to keep the government open through December 3rd. Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, have so far projected confidence that a shutdown will not occur, but with the deadline rapidly approaching, lawmakers have no room for error.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Wednesday evening that an agreement had been reached, paving the way for a Thursday vote in the chamber on a continuing resolution, which keeps the government funded at current levels for a set time period.

“Some good news — today the Senate will pass a continuing resolution that will eliminate the possibility of a government shutdown tonight,” Schumer said in floor remarks Thursday morning.

In addition to funding the government until December 3, the stopgap bill will “provide funding to help process and resettle Afghan refugees and finally deliver on critical disaster aid for Americans battered by storms and wildfires this summer,” the majority leader said.

Beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, the Senate is slated to hold several amendment votes before voting on the continuing resolution. The House is expected to take up the measure later Thursday once it is approved by the Senate.

Congressional Democrats initially attempted to address the government funding issue alongside the debt limit, a strategy that was thwarted by Republicans in the Senate who have insisted that Democrats must act alone on the debt limit.

On Monday, the Senate took up a House-passed bill that would have extended government funding to avert a shutdown and suspended the debt limit, but Republicans blocked the measure. Senate Republicans have said that they would support a “clean” stopgap funding bill to avert a shutdown if it did not contain a debt limit provision.

If lawmakers manage to stave off a shutdown by passing a “clean” stopgap bill, it will punt the debt limit issue further down the road with another key deadline fast approaching.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the federal government will likely run out of cash and extraordinary measures by October 18, leaving Congress with little time to act to stave off what would likely be a catastrophic default.

Democrats do have the option to raise the debt limit on their own using a process known as budget reconciliation, but they have argued that route is too risky and would risk a default, leaving it unclear how the issue will be resolved.

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