Congress averts shutdown with a 45-day stopgap funding bill

Lawmakers passed a bipartisan measure just hours before a funding lapse was set to furlough hundreds of thousands of federal employees.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to the press after meeting with his caucus on Capitol Hill early Sept. 30, 2023.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to the press after meeting with his caucus on Capitol Hill early Sept. 30, 2023. Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Congress this weekend passed a stopgap funding bill that will keep agencies open for 45 days, averting at the 11th hour a shutdown that a day earlier seemed inevitable. 

The breakthrough came Saturday morning after House Republican leadership agreed to put a continuing resolution on the floor for a vote despite opposition within its own party. The bill, which will keep agencies funded at their current levels through Nov. 17, passed with broad bipartisan support after Democrats threw their support behind the measure. 

The CR then moved to the Senate, which easily approved it with bipartisan support. The upper chamber had planned to pass its own stopgap bill with the same date and spending levels, but its version was set to include $6 billion in aid for Ukraine. The final, House-backed bill scrapped that funding, but did include $16 billion for disaster relief. It also temporarily reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration, which was facing a midnight expiration. 

Biden signed the measure into law Sunday before a shutdown occurred. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had aggressively pushed for a stopgap bill to avert a shutdown, but had been reluctant to put forward a “clean” CR that would require Democratic support. A handful of conservative members had refused to approve any short-term measure that did not include drastic spending cuts and border security reforms. Some of those Republicans had threatened to force a vote on removing McCarthy from his speakership position if he moved forward with such a bill.  

Ultimately, McCarty opted to buck those members of his party. 

“We're going to keep government open while we work our differences out and secure our border,” McCarthy said on Saturday. “You know what if somebody wants to remove [me] because I want to be the adult in the room? Go ahead and try. But I think this country is too important.” 

The House put forward a CR with spending cuts and border security provisions on Friday, but it failed when a small minority of Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing it. Some Democrats opposed the new CR as well, citing concerns over the lack of funding for Ukraine. 

Saturday’s last-minute votes staved off a shutdown for which federal agencies across government have the last week dedicated to preparing. The White House had worked with agencies to finalize their plans over exactly who would be furloughed and who would be required to work. In recent days, agencies began notifying employees that a shutdown appeared likely and readying them for next steps.

Official furlough notices were not expected to go out until after a funding lapse occurred, though informal conversations had already taken place to inform employees of their potential shutdown status. About 800,000 federal employees were set to be sent home. 

Attention will now turn to full-year appropriations for fiscal 2024. Top-line funding levels were previously set under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, a law that raised the debt ceiling and set spending caps through fiscal 2025. House Republicans have since reneged on that deal, passing appropriations measures well below agreed upon levels.

The Senate has approved its bills only at the committee levels, but has done so with broad bipartisan support and in line with the agreement President Biden struck with McCarthy under the FRA earlier this year.