WASHINGTON: The US Senate will take an initial vote on a stopgap spending measure on Tuesday to keep federal agencies running past the end of this week, while Congress continues to negotiate bills to fund the government through the next fiscal year.
President Joe Biden's Democrats control both chambers of Congress and are expected to avoid an embarrassing partial government shutdown just six weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when control of Congress will be at stake.
The bill also includes more than $7 billion in funding to help Ukraine turn back Russia's invasion, according to a summary released Tuesday morning. In early September, Biden requested $11.7 billion in military and economic aid.
Congress has resorted to this kind of last-minute temporary spending bill in 43 out of the past 46 years due to its failure to approve full-year appropriations in time for the Oct. 1 start of a fiscal year, according to a government study. A Tuesday evening Senate procedural vote is designed to speed action once Democrats and Republicans put the finishing touches on legislation.
MANCHIN'S PERMITTING BILL A BARRIER The first vote's outcome was unclear because of a fight over an add-on by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a key swing vote who pressed to include an unrelated measure to speed up the government's permitting process for energy projects.
The proposed legislation includes permitting reform provisions and directs $250 million from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act to "improve and accelerate reviews for designated projects." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his fellow Republicans to vote against the temporary funding bill because of the Manchin provision, Politico reported. A McConnell aide had no immediate comment.
Some Democrats and environmentalists also are opposed, fearing it would spark more development of fossil fuel projects at a time when the effects of climate change from carbon emissions are accelerating. Republicans have been angry at Manchin since he helped Democrats pass a bill this summer addressing climate change and lowering some healthcare costs.
SPENDING BILL STILL EXPECTED TO PASS Even if Tuesday's procedural vote fails, House and Senate leaders are expected to switch gears to promptly pass the spending bill by their Friday midnight deadline.
That is when government agencies run out of money with Saturday's start of a new fiscal year. Also included is a five-year renewal of Food and Drug Administration user fees being collected from drug and medical device companies to review their products and determine whether they are safe and effective, the bill summary showed.
The law authorizing the collection of fees expires on Friday. The last time Congress allowed funding to lapse was in December 2018, when Democrats balked at paying for then-President Donald Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall. Following a record, 35-day impasse, Trump found ways to partially circumvent Congress, but the wall never was completed.