The House approved a stopgap funding measure to keep the federal government open for two days while lawmakers finish work on a pandemic relief package, but it was not yet certain whether the Senate could act in time to avert a temporary weekend shutdown.
The bill passed the House on a 320-60 vote.
In the Senate, John Thune, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said leaders would attempt to get unanimous consent to move quickly. At least two senators who previously suggest they might block action on the temporary funding bill because of disputes over some provisions of the relief proposal said they wouldn’t stand in the way.
“Hopefully we don’t get any objections,” Thune told reporters.
Even if the Senate doesn’t act, the effect on government operations would be limited because the lapse would happen over a weekend, when most federal offices are closed. Essential services would continue as would distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. Agencies with funds on hand can continue operating. The House-passed resolution authorizes funding through midnight Sunday.
The short-term funding measure is the second in a week as Congress has struggled to reach agreement on a year-end economic relief bill to deliver as much as $900 billion in aid to small businesses, households and unemployed workers. The current stopgap expires at the end of the day on Friday.
Congressional leaders plan to couple the relief funds to an omnibus spending bill that would fund the federal government through September, the end of the government’s fiscal year. Republicans and Democrats continued to haggle over unresolved issued Friday evening, including the scope of Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers and the size of direct payments to individuals.
Lawmakers passed a one-week funding extension last Friday to give themselves more time to pass legislation before leaving Washington for the rest of the year. Congressional leaders have said they are close to reaching an agreement on a final aid package for days, but have yet to release the details of the bill.
“I am so frustrated by the inability of us to act like adults, with responsibility,“ Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said. “We have a government of 2 million people that are waiting every hour to find out if they are going to be working.”
A vote on the relief package won’t come until Sunday and could spill into early next week.
Hoyer said the bulk of the responsibility falls on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for continuing to blow past deadlines, but that every lawmaker shoulders some blame for failing to reach a deal on virus relief and government spending.
McConnell said Friday he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continue to have productive talks.
“I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand,” he said on the Senate floor.
Representative James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, said his chamber could vote on the relief bill as soon as Saturday. However, several sticking points remain as lawmakers seek to agree on a final version. Hoyer has advised lawmakers to be available through the weekend and into next week, should negotiations take that long.
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