Shutdown: Senate votes to keep US government open

Shutdown: Senate votes to keep US government open

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Image caption, National parks, museums and many other non-essential federal services could close during a government shutdown

The US Senate has passed a measure to keep the government funded through December and avoid yet another federal shutdown.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for final passage.

Lawmakers face a midnight deadline before funding lapses, which could force federal museums, national parks and safety programmes to close.

The government funding bill includes money for hurricane relief and for resettling Afghan refugees.

On Thursday, the measure to keep the government open temporarily passed the Senate by a vote of 65 to 35, with 15 Republicans voting to support it.

The newly approved funding ensures that federal agencies do not need to close down on Friday and hundreds of thousands of government employees will not have to take unpaid leave.

Of particular concern, given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, was the potential hit that health services could take. A plan prepared by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) found that it may have been forced to send up to 43% of its staff home in the event of a shutdown.

Republicans and Democrats reached a deal to keep the government open on Wednesday night, but other policy hurdles remain.

It has been a jam-packed week for lawmakers, who have been negotiating for weeks over President Biden’s economic agenda.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will move forward with a vote on the president’s $1tn (£722bn) infrastructure bill Thursday. The bill would provide $550bn for roads, bridges, internet and other domestic priorities.

Congress soon faces another deadline: the US government is set to hit its borrowing limit within weeks.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said this week the US will reach its debt ceiling – the limit on how much the US government can borrow – by October 18.

It has prompted dire warnings of a catastrophic default on the national debt that could reverberate through the US and the global economy.

The House, which is controlled by the Democrats, had already voted to pass a funding measure to keep the government open last week, combining it with a measure to suspend the debt ceiling.

But Republicans in the Senate blocked the bill from advancing, citing the Biden administration’s plans to pass trillions of dollars in new spending as a reason not to raise the debt ceiling.

The measure to keep the government open will need to pass the House again before becoming law.

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