The Senate took a first step to prevent a government shutdown and extend healthcare programs due to expire within days by advancing a short-term, bipartisan measure on Tuesday.
The legislation would fund the federal government and temporarily reauthorize disproportionate share hospital payments, the federally qualified health centers program, graduate medical education funding, the National Health Service Corps and other healthcare initiatives until Nov. 17. The fiscal year ends on Saturday and Congress has not passed any spending bills for fiscal 2024.
The Senate voted 77 to 19 to prevent filibusters and begin debate on the bill, after which the upper chamber will vote on passage. The legislation also would extend special diabetes programs and fund Health and Human Services Department public health functions.
Senate Democratic leaders appealed to the Republican-led House to join them in maintaining federal operations and programs while Congress devises full-year spending agreements.
"This should not be hard. We have a simple bipartisan [continuing resolution], a truly reasonable bill," Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said prior to the vote. "We have the support to get it signed into law if it's put up for vote in both chambers. And we do not have a moment to waste."
House GOP leaders have made no evident progress resolving a standoff with the contingent of Republicans stoking the shutdown fight, but Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) nevertheless said he will offer a short-term funding bill of this own this week.
"This is stopgap funding to keep government open, and securing the border. I don't know anyone who is opposed to that," McCarthy said Tuesday. The Speaker recognized, however, that Democrats and the most conservative members of the House likely would reject his plan.
The House is scheduled to vote on a measure to sustain Food and Drug Administration reviews of new medicines and devices Tuesday or Wednesday, but no other spending or healthcare bills.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) acknowledged the impasse in the House. "It amazes me that some in the other body—just an extreme few—say they want a shutdown that hurts hundreds of millions of Americans, for only some kind of ideological political purpose," he said.