While the United States government managed to avert a disastrous shutdown amid a budget crisis, the US Congress has passed a last-minute funding bill to sustain federal agencies for an additional 45 days, extending until November 15. However, it’s important to note that they have rejected the allocation of additional funds for Ukraine, which has been grappling with the impacts of war.
In a high-stakes showdown on Capitol Hill, the Senate voted to keep the government funded through mid-November, just three hours before the midnight deadline. This resolution had previously advanced from the House of Representatives.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy pitched this “continuing resolution” as millions of public workers were on the brink of being sent home without pay, which would disrupt critical government functions, including military operations, food aid, and federal policymaking.
In response to these developments, US President Joe Biden released a statement, saying, “Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans”.
However, President Biden expressed frustration with McCarthy and House Republicans for deviating from the spending levels previously agreed upon with the White House, which was a significant factor contributing to the near shutdown. He also criticized them for removing support for Ukraine.
President Biden expressed hope that Speaker McCarthy would uphold his commitment to aid Ukraine during this critical time. The President signed the measure, as confirmed by the White House.
The shutdown crisis was primarily instigated by a small group of hardline Republicans who defied their own party’s leadership by opposing various temporary funding proposals, insisting on substantial spending cuts instead.
This group of 21 hardliners had threatened to oust McCarthy as Speaker if a stopgap measure they opposed passed with Democratic support. Many observers in Washington anticipated a potential battle for McCarthy’s position in the coming weeks.
Lauren Boebert, one of the group members, did not confirm whether she and her colleagues would attempt to remove McCarthy, but she expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome. She stated, “There are too many members here who are comfortable doing things the way they’ve been done since the mid-’90s, and that’s why we’re sitting at US$33 trillion in debt”.
Providing arms and funding to Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian invasion has been a significant policy priority for the Biden administration. While the current stopgap funding is temporary, it raises questions about the political feasibility of renewing the multibillion-dollar assistance for Ukraine.
McCarthy acknowledged the severity of Russia’s invasion but emphasized that there could be no unlimited financial support for Ukraine. He stated, “I have a real concern about what’s going to happen long term, but I don’t want to waste any money”.