Wed, 29 Nov 2023

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday night signed a 45-day stopgap funding bill, just a few minutes before federal government funding for this fiscal year is set to expire.

In a last-minute effort to avert a government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy released the new bill Saturday morning, which would keep federal agencies funded at current levels until mid-November, and includes 16 billion U.S. dollars of funding for disaster relief, requested by the president.

The new bill dropped steep spending cuts and border security provisions sought by conservative Republicans, and does not include additional aid for Ukraine sought by Democrats.

The House swiftly approved the stopgap funding measure in a vote of 335-91. A few hours later, the Senate passed the bill in a vote of 88-9.

McCarthy's new proposal came as a surprise, as he had been trying to advance a funding bill with steep spending cuts and border security provisions in attempts to garner support from Republican conservatives in a slim House majority.

McCarthy's difficult situation in the House leaves him little choice but to "please" the right wing of the Republican Party.

After last year's midterm elections, the Republican Party retook the House, with control of 221 seats, just nine more than the Democratic Party's 212 seats, meaning that even five "rebels" are enough to defeat a Republican legislative agenda.

His latest decision to put forward the "clean" stopgap funding bill is welcomed by Democrats and the White House, but has upset some Republicans, especially party hardliners in the House, who had wanted to pass a bill without Democratic support and had threatened to remove him from the top House leadership post.

When asked Saturday what if conservative Republican critics try to remove him from the speakership over the "clean" stopgap funding bill, McCarthy told reporters that "If someone wants to remove (me) because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try."

Biden welcomed the passage of the bill in the Congress, calling it "good news." "But I want to be clear: We should never have been in this position in the first place," Biden said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Calling it a manufactured crisis, Biden blamed "extreme House Republicans" for trying to walk away from a budget deal he and McCarthy reached a few months ago.

The U.S. president also urged the House to approve more aid for Ukraine, reiterating a Democratic request that has been opposed by conservative Republicans.

A Senate-proposed stopgap funding bill, unveiled Tuesday, would fund the government at current levels until mid-November, and included roughly 6 billion dollars of aid for Ukraine and about 6 billion dollars for domestic disaster relief.

The Senate bill didn't gain enough support in the House, as a group of conservative Republicans voiced concerns about Ukraine aid -- urging the Biden administration to make it part of the spending cuts -- and criticized the bill for a lack of border security provisions, which revealed the partisan divide over immigration policy.

McCarthy originally attempted to pass a stopgap funding bill with spending cuts and border security provisions, but conservative Republicans said they oppose any "patchwork" funding package and refused to cooperate, forcing McCarthy to turn to Democrats for support.

Greg Cusack, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives, told Xinhua earlier that the fight in Congress was "embarrassing and infuriating."

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