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: Congress votes to keep government open through mid-February

The Senate late Thursday passed a measure to head off a government shutdown, averting a partisan standoff over federal vaccine mandates that threatened to push a Friday deadline.

“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 69-28.

Earlier in the day, House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, announced an agreement to fund the federal government at current levels through Feb. 18. Without such a stopgap budget, the government would have partially shut down after midnight Friday. The measure also includes $7 billion for Afghanistan refugees.

The Democratic-led House passed the measure by a 221-212 vote, sending the measure to the Senate. The Republican leadership urged members to vote no; the lone GOP vote for the bill came from Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

In the Senate, a group of GOP conservatives had been planning to object to quick consideration of such a stopgap budget without an agreement to deny money to enforce the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large companies. Senate rules allow any one senator to stall a vote.

Read more: Biden administration asks court to allow employee vaccine mandate

And see: Congress faces shutdown deadline, hurdles for Biden’s Build Back Better plan

The shutdown was averted due to a compromise, giving Senate conservatives including Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah a vote on their push to defund Biden’s vaccine mandate, in exchange for agreeing to speed up a government-funding deal. The amendment was defeated, 50-48.

Republicans were not united in threatening a shutdown. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Wednesday, “I think we’re going to be OK,” when asked about the prospect of a shutdown. Thursday morning, Schumer said he and McConnell had agreed to keep the government funded through mid-February.

Biden said earlier in the day he didn’t expect a shutdown. “There is a plan in place, unless somebody decides to be totally erratic,” he said after a speech on COVID-19.

U.S. stocks traded sharply higher Thursday afternoon, with the Dow
DJIA,
+1.82%

industrials on track for the best percentage gain since last year, as investors attempted to look past the spread of coronavirus and a fuzzy path for monetary policy and the U.S. economy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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