Sunday, May 26

Senate to Pass Stopgap Spending Bill as Congress Moves to Avert Shutdown

The Senate was expected to pass legislation on Thursday to fund the government through early March, putting pressure on the House to quickly follow suit to avoid a partial government shutdown beginning Saturday.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader, cleared the way on Wednesday for a midday vote on the measure. It is intended to give Congress time to pass spending bills totaling $1.66 trillion to fund the government through the fall, holding most federal spending steady while bolstering the military.

The legislation “will give Congress time to continue working on the appropriations process to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year,” Mr. Schumer said. “We hope that the House will take up this bill before the Friday deadline with bipartisan support.”

Speaker Mike Johnson, who negotiated the overall spending package with Mr. Schumer, has been criticized by the hard right faction in the House for not insisting on greater cuts. He will need significant numbers of Democrats to back the measure given expected Republican opposition.

Even considering the bill represents a reversal by the speaker, who pledged last year to not take up any more short-term spending packages. But time ran out to enact the 12 individual bills that fund the government, forcing the hand of Mr. Johnson, who does not want House Republicans to be blamed for a disruption in government services heading into elections in November.

The timing of any House vote remains unclear, though the leadership has left open the possibility of a quick vote after the Senate acts. A snowstorm is predicted for the Washington region on Friday, and lawmakers will be eager to leave town and avoid the possibility of flight cancellations that could ground them in the capital for the weekend.

To overcome procedural objections to moving ahead quickly in the Senate, Mr. Schumer agreed to allow Republicans to propose three changes that would effectively derail the measure. But all are expected to fall short, clearing the way for approval and a House vote.

As he did in the fall with the previous stopgap spending bill, Mr. Johnson will then have to use special procedures to speed the measure through the House, limiting debate and requiring a two-thirds majority that is likely to be made up of more Democrats than Republicans.

Under the legislation, funding for agriculture, veterans programs, transportation, housing and other federal operations would be maintained through March 1, with funding for the rest of the government, including the Pentagon, expiring on March 8.

With the additional time, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees hope to push through the dozen bills funding the government according to the spending level agreed to by Mr. Johnson and Mr. Schumer. But it will not be easy.

Besides objections to the spending itself, far-right conservatives in the House are demanding the measures include restrictions on abortion and other limits on government authority that Democrats say they will not accept, setting up a showdown over those policy provisions.

“We still have an awful lot of work to get done in a short amount of time to finalize serious appropriations bills, free of partisan poison pills that protect key investments in our country’s future,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.