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The House of Representatives on Saturday passed a last-minute funding measure that brought Washington closer to averting a government shutdown but left out billions of dollars of Ukraine aid.
In a dramatic turn of events, the House voted 335-91 on a deal that would keep the government funded at current levels for another 45 days, postponing the risk of a shutdown until mid-November.
All but one Democratic House member joined with the majority of Republicans in supporting the measure, while 90 Republicans broke with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in opposing the deal.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which Democrats control by a razor-thin margin. The Senate has until midnight on Saturday to approve the agreement and avert a shutdown.
But it remains uncertain whether the bill will be approved by the upper chamber, where a similar stop-gap proposal had included some $6bn in additional US aid for Ukraine. The measure passed by the House excludes funding for Ukraine.
While many House Republicans have been wary of providing more support for Kyiv, influential Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, have been resolute about the need to back Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
John Barrasso, the number-two Republican in the Senate, indicated he would vote in favour of the agreement, saying the House bill “bridges the gap to pay our troops”. Barrasso said getting the measure passed quickly in the Senate is the “right thing to do”.
Saturday’s vote in the House came after days of failed attempts at compromise that cast doubt on McCarthy’s leadership. The scale of Saturday’s rebellion will raise further questions about the strength of McCarthy’s speakership.
Several hardline members of the Republican conference, including Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, have suggested they are readying to bring a “motion to vacate,” or vote of no confidence against the Speaker.
“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” McCarthy told reporters after Saturday’s vote. “There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what is best for this country.”
A shutdown appeared all but certain late on Friday after 21 Republican rebels voted against a different stop-gap funding measure proposed by McCarthy. House Democrats also voted against the measure because it included steep budget cuts.
But on Saturday McCarthy came back with the new offer to continue funding the government at current levels for another 45 days.
McCarthy explained his rationale after Saturday’s vote, saying members of the Republican conference had been pushing for a shutdown that would have resulted in troops not being paid.
“I don’t want to be a part of that team,” the Speaker said. “I want to be a part of a conservative group that wants to get things done.”
Democrats had placed the blame for the shutdown drama on Republicans, given the small but powerful minority of hardliners in the House hindered several proposed compromise deals in recent days.
A White House official called the House vote on Saturday a “big victory on funding levels and keeping the government open” for US president Joe Biden, noting Republicans had “reversed themselves” on their demands for deep spending cuts. The official added they “fully expect” McCarthy to bring forward a separate Ukraine funding bill “shortly”.