Congress Avoided a Government Shutdown—What Happens Next?

Congress averted a shutdown on Saturday by mere hours, passing a measure that extends government funding for the next 45 days. The newly-passed stopgap bill funds the government at the current $1.6 trillion annual rate until Nov. 17, the deadline by which it needs to pass another bill to avert a government shutdown.

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But while the Senate’s 88 to 9 vote salvaged the wages of millions of federal employees and social security payments for those in need, the act omits funding for what some deem critical—including Ukraine aid—while also increasing tension between Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his more conservative colleagues.

McCarthy attempted to pass a separate resolution that would better appease his far-right colleagues on Friday, but that bill fell short by 21 votes, prompting the Speaker to seek an alternative route. “It’s alright if Republicans and Democrats join together to do what is right,” McCarthy said on Saturday.

McCarthy has since faced criticism from the President for his failure to abide by funding agreements settled during the debt ceiling deal in May, and faces threats to his speakership. 

“We should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis,” said Biden in a statement on Saturday. “For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.”

Now that a government shutdown has been avoided, what will happen next? Find out what you need to know, below.

What is the 45-day funding bill and what does it cover? 

The 45-day stopgap bill provides temporary funding for the government that is on par with the rate of funding in the fiscal year of 2023. The bill funds food assistance programs, federal wages, and allows continued access to Americans on Medicare and Medicaid services, but it is missing provisions on border policy changes and aid to Ukraine.

The bill outlays $16 billion in disaster relief for Americans. Speaking to reporters after announcing the plan, McCarthy acknowledged the recent disasters in Hawaii, Florida, Vermont, and California as the reason for this supplemental funding.

It also allows organisations like the Federal Aviation Administration and National Flood Insurance Program to remain in place. Both of these programs were set to expire on Saturday at midnight if Congress had not acted to avoid a shutdown.

Congress, however, still needs to pass 12 appropriations bills to fund additional federal agencies. 

How will this impact aid in Ukraine?

While the stopgap bill adhered to some of President Biden’s demands—including the full request for $16 billion in disaster relief—it also notably failed to provide additional funding for Ukraine. 

Lawmakers indicated that they may vote on aid to Ukraine in a separate bill, or through the passage of other legislation in government. There is some bipartisan support on the matter. House Democratic leadership said that they expect McCarthy will move forward a bill to support Ukraine once session resumes. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement assuring that Congress will continue to fight for “economic and security assistance for Ukraine.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed that statement. “Senate Republicans remain committed to helping our friends on the front lines, to investing more heavily in the American strength that reinforces our allies, and to deterring our top strategic adversary, China,” he said. “I am confident the Senate will pass further urgent assistance to Ukraine later this year.

In the meantime, President Biden has publicly voiced his concern for the lack of aid. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the White House in late September to ask for additional funding, which Democrats seem steadily committed to. When that aid will arrive, however, remains unclear.  

“While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support,” the White House said in his statement. “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”

Will Kevin McCarthy remain the House Speaker? 

The passage of the stopgap bill also brings forward existing conflict between McCarthy and far-right members of the Republican party, who had threatened to remove him from the speakership if he passed a stopgap funding bill.

McCarthy’s journey to the speakership had already been fraught with challenges. He had to go through 15 rounds of voting in January before he finally garnered sufficient support. But in order to earn that position, McCarthy also made a deal that would change rules to allow one lawmaker to advance a “motion to vacate,” as opposed to by the “direction of a party caucus or conference,” which was the previous standard.

Rep. Matt Gaetz plans on using that power in his favor. Gaetz told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union that he plans to file a motion to vacate this week.

“This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw,” Gaetz said on Sunday. “I think we need to move on with new leadership that will be trustworthy. The only way Kevin McCarthy is speaker of the House at the end of this coming week is if Democrats bail him out.”

If Gaetz follows through on that promise, the vote to remove McCarthy from speakership would happen within a number of days because it is a “privileged” resolution—meaning it is an urgent matter. McCarthy could be removed from the speakership by a simple majority, or 218 votes. Republicans currently have control of the House, holding 221 seats. 

“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” McCarthy said at a press conference. “There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what’s best for this country.”