Biden signs stopgap funding bill, avoiding a government shutdown

Both chambers of Congress passed the legislation on Thursday to avert a short-term shutdown of the government.

US President Joe Biden said earlier on Friday that funding the government is 'the bare minimum of what needs to get done' [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden has signed into law a bill that will fund the government until February 18, the White House said, avoiding the risk of a shutdown after the legislation met opposition from some Republicans over vaccine mandates.

In a statement on Friday, the White House thanked congressional leaders for their work in passing the bill.

Earlier in the day, however, Biden said that while it was worth praising bipartisanship, “funding the government isn’t a great achievement – it’s the bare minimum of what needs to get done”.

Both chambers of Congress passed the legislation on Thursday to avoid a short-term shutdown of the government. It keeps the federal government running for 11 more weeks, generally at current spending levels, while adding $7bn to aid Afghanistan evacuees.

“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,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The Biden administration has put in place policies requiring millions of federal employees and federal contractors to be fully vaccinated [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The votes in the Senate and House of Representatives came amid intense partisan debate over coronavirus vaccine mandates – and at a time when officials have raised concerns about the potential spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country.

The Biden administration sees vaccinations as the quickest way to end a pandemic that has killed more than 780,000 people in the US.

On Thursday, Biden unveiled a new plan to prevent a resurgence of the virus that included making vaccines, including booster jabs, as well as at-home coronavirus tests more easily available to Americans.

“Experts say that COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in the weeks ahead this winter, so we need to be ready,” Biden said.

The administration has pursued vaccine requirements for several groups of workers, but the effort is facing legal setbacks. Courts have knocked back some of the mandates, including a ruling this week blocking enforcement of a requirement for some healthcare workers in 10 US states.

Earlier, a federal appeals court temporarily halted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirement affecting employers with 100 or more workers.

The administration has also put in place policies requiring millions of federal employees and federal contractors, including military troops, to be fully vaccinated. Those efforts also are being challenged.

Some Republicans who opposed Biden’s vaccine rules wanted Congress to take a hard stand against the mandated jabs for workers at larger businesses, even if that meant shutting down federal offices over the weekend by refusing to expedite a final vote on the spending bill.

A poll conducted by The Associated Press shows Americans are divided over Biden’s effort to vaccinate workers, with Democrats overwhelmingly in support of it while most Republicans are against it.

Source: News Agencies