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Congress averts government shutdown in stunning twist, passing deal with bipartisan support

Catch up with USA TODAY's live coverage here to see how the day unfolded in Congress.

WASHINGTON — After lawmakers in Congress spent weeks fighting over how to avoid a shutdown that would impact millions of people, they passed a measure Saturday that would temporarily fund the government until a year-long spending deal is set in stone.

The stunning turn of events, when Congress appeared all but headed towards a government shutdown, happened after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy R-Calif., announced he would put a short-term stopgap measure – referred to as a continuing resolution – on the House floor on Saturday.

The bill, which passed in the House by a bipartisan vote of 335-91 and in the Senate by a similarly bipartisan vote of 88-9, will keep government funding at current levels. The legislation was signed by President Joe Biden shortly before midnight.

A government shutdown seemed certain as House Republicans were consumed by infighting, with some GOP lawmakers resigning themselves to a shutdown. A small group of conservative hardliners insisted on a funding deal with deep spending cuts and other ultra-conservative demands, frustrating the rest of the House GOP conference as they attempted to pass a funding deal along party lines.

McCarthy was hesitant to put forward legislation that did not at least include some spending cuts. But as the pressure of a shutdown inched closer and closer, the House speaker appeared to relent, taking up a spending measure that kept government funding at current levels. The bill sparked anger from McCarthy's right flank, but the legislation earned support from all House Democrats but one, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters following a closed-door meeting with House Republicans after his last-ditch plan to keep the government temporarily open collapsed yesterday, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters following a closed-door meeting with House Republicans after his last-ditch plan to keep the government temporarily open collapsed yesterday, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

The stopgap measure means lawmakers have 48 more days to pass a more fleshed out spending deal to keep the government funded for the next year. McCarthy, at a press conference following passage in the House, warned that the spending fight wasn't over yet.

"At the end of the day, we kept the government open, kept paying our troops to finish the job we have to get done," McCarthy said.

The hard-right Republicans who have demanded deep spending cuts unsurprisingly voted against the measure. As they left the House floor, the conservative hardliners expressed frustration at McCarthy for keeping government funding at current levels.

"It's standard operating procedure here in Washington," Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., one of these lawmakers, told USA TODAY. "Continuing to spend money we don't have. They don't want to do the appropriation bills. It's pathetic but it's what I expected."

House Democrats, who urged McCarthy to support a temporary measure that kept funding at current levels, took a victory lap following the bills passage in the House.

"MAGA Republicans have surrendered. All extreme right-wing policies have been removed from the House spending bill. The American people have won," House Minority Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told reporters that Democrats "won" out in the spending fight.

The continuing resolution hit a slight snag in the Senate when Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., held up the measure over its lack of additional U.S. aid to Ukraine. Senate leaders eventually agreed to release a statement committing to the upper chamber's support for Ukraine aid, resolving the conflict with Bennet.

"The American people can breathe a sigh of relief, there will be no government shutdown," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the stopgap passed.

A government shutdown would have left thousands of families without access to child care, furloughed federal workers living paycheck to paycheck, closed a majority of national parks and left delays for student loans.

Ranking Member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., objects to a GOP proposal as the House Rules Committee meets to prepare an appropriations bill for a floor vote, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.
Ranking Member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., objects to a GOP proposal as the House Rules Committee meets to prepare an appropriations bill for a floor vote, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier this month also warned that a shutdown could hurt Republicans politically.

“I think all of you know I’m not a fan of government shutdowns, I’ve seen a few of them over the years, they never have produced a policy change and they’ve always been a loser for Republicans, politically,” McConnell said.

The last government shutdown lasted from Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019. Spanning 35 days, it was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

It was also the third federal shutdown to occur during former President Donald Trump's administration; the first lasted three days in January 2018, and the second lasted only a few hours in February 2018.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress averts government shutdown with stunning, bipartisan deal