Senate Rejects Short-Term Funding Bill

September 29, 2021

On Sept. 27, the Senate failed to advance a short-term funding bill that would have funded government agencies through early December, leaving Congress just three days to come up with an alternative plan to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1. 

The Senate Republicans rejected the proposal to fund the government until Dec. 3 and lift the debt ceiling past next year’s midterms, a vote that needed the support of just 10 Republicans to advance over a Republican filibuster. The measure failed by a vote of 48-50, with 60 votes needed for the legislation to move to the president’s desk.

The continuing resolution (CR) had already passed the House, but Republicans rejected the measure because it also suspended the nation’s borrowing limit until December 2022. Democrats, they have insisted, should use reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling on their own. The House-passed CR funding bill also provided $28.6 billion to address natural disasters including Hurricane Ida, which lashed the Gulf Coast states earlier this month. It would also appropriate $6.3 billion to help relocate Afghan refugees. Before House passage, Democratic leaders removed $1 billion for the Iron Dome system, an Israeli government request after 12 days of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in May. The House later voted 420-9 for standalone legislation to appropriate those funds, which Republicans and some Democrats want to add back to the CR.

Last week, Senate Republicans put forward their own bill that would fund agencies at their current levels for nine weeks, but would not address the debt ceiling. The debt limit was reinstated in August following a two-year suspension and the date on which the U.S. government is unable to meet all its financial obligations in full and on time could come as soon as mid-October, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Before the cloture vote, Democrats objected to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) request to replace the text of the House-passed bill with his substitute version. That bill is identical in most respects to the Democrats’ CR except that it includes the Iron Dome funds and drops the debt ceiling suspension.

Democratic congressional leadership has not yet indicated what its next steps will be, though it appears a bill that funds the government through Dec. 3 and does not address the debt limit would have the votes to reach Dec. 3. Lawmakers could also opt to pass a shorter CR that aligns a shutdown deadline with the default deadline. All parties have expressed their desire to avoid a shutdown, so we can expect another attempt to avoid a shutdown later this week.