Two ‘absent’ Republicans help Democrats avert government shutdown


Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer appeared poised on Thursday to avert a government shutdown with the inadvertent help of two “absent” GOP lawmakers.

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, struck a deal with a cadre of conservative senators to expedite passage of a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government afloat past Dec. 3.

“I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached between Democrats and Republicans that will allow the Senate to take up and pass the continuing resolution to fund the government through February 18,” said Mr. Schumer. “With this agreement, there will be no government shutdown.”

As part of the deal, the majority leader agreed to conservative demands for a vote on an amendment to the bill blocking President Biden‘s vaccine mandate from being implemented on private businesses.

Mr. Schumer agreed to let the amendment garner a simple majority for adoption — rather than the conventional 60 votes — but the threshold is unlikely to be met because of the absence of two GOP senators.

One of those lawmakers, freshman Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, is unable to make the vote because of a prior family commitment.

“Senator Hagerty traveled to Tennessee this afternoon to watch his oldest son — who is a high school senior — play in the state championship football game tonight,” said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the Tennessee Republican. “Senator Hagerty regrets to miss any Senate vote, but as a father nothing would have prevented him from seeing his son’s final game.”

Mr. Hagerty, according to Mr. Deere, would have backed the amendment if he was in attendance. It is unclear how the other absent lawmaker would have voted on the amendment.

The deal ends a tense back and forth among lawmakers over keeping the government open.

By a 221-to-212 vote, the House passed its version of the short-gap funding measure earlier Thursday. 

While the bill keeps government funding at Trump-era levels for the two-month span, it does add an additional $7 billion for Afghan refugee resettlement.

“We all have a responsibility to make sure that the government functions,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “Our members, whether they are here or they are home, stand ready to keep the government open.”

Every House Democrat voted in favor of the bill, along with one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Once the bill passes the Senate, it will head to Mr. Biden’s desk for signature. The president is expected to sign the bill before Friday’s government shutdown deadline.

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