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US Congress votes to avert government shutdown just hours before funding lapses

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By AP with Euronews
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The US Capitol at sunset in Washington, United States, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
The US Capitol at sunset in Washington, United States, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.   -   Copyright  Andrew Harnik/AP
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With only hours to spare, US President Joe Biden signed legislation to avoid a federal shutdown and keep the government funded through December 3.

Congress had passed the bill earlier on Thursday. The House approved the short-term funding measure by a 254-175 vote not long after Senate passage in a 65-35 vote. A large majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against it.

The legislation was needed to keep the government running once the current budget year ended at midnight on Thursday. Passage will buy lawmakers more time to craft the spending measures that will fund federal agencies and the programs they administer.

“There’s so much more to do,” Biden said in a statement after the signing. “But the passage of this bill reminds us that bipartisan work is possible and it gives us time to pass longer-term funding to keep our government running and delivering for the American people.”

The work to keep the government open and running served as the backdrop during a chaotic day for Democrats as they struggled to get Biden’s top domestic priorities over the finish line, including a bipartisan $1 trillion (€ 0.86) infrastructure bill at risk of stalling in the House.

“It is a glimmer of hope as we go through many, many other activities," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

With their energy focused on Biden's agenda, Democrats backed down from a showdown over the debt limit in the government funding bill, deciding to uncouple the borrowing ceiling at the insistence of Republicans. If that cap is not raised by October 18, the US probably will face a financial crisis and economic recession, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Republicans say Democrats have the votes to raise the debt limit on their own, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is insisting they do so.

The short-term spending legislation will also provide about $28.6 billion (€24.7 billion) in disaster relief for those recovering from Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters. An additional $6.3 billion (€5.44) will help support the resettlement of Afghanistan evacuees from the 20-year war between the US and the Taliban.

“This is a good outcome, one I’m happy we are getting done,” Schumer said. “With so many things to take care of in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to grind to a halt.”

Once the government is funded, albeit temporarily, Democrats will turn their full attention to the need to raise the limit on federal borrowing, which now stands at $28.4 (€ 24.53) trillion.

The US has never defaulted on its debts in the modern era and historically, both parties have voted to raise the limit.