NAfter days of negotiations, the American Congress averted an impending budget freeze at the last minute. The Senate approved a transitional budget on Thursday with 69 to 28 votes. The House of Representatives had previously given the green light. President Joe Biden now has until midnight Friday to proclaim the law. The transitional budget ensures funding for the federal authorities until February 18.
“I’m glad that cooler heads prevailed in the end,” said the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, after the vote. “And I thank the members of this Chamber for saving us from an avoidable, unnecessary and costly standstill”.
Before the vote, some Republican senators threatened to torpedo the vote. They wanted to force Biden to make concessions in the fight against the corona pandemic. Had the senators not been able to agree on the draft, numerous federal agencies would have closed on Saturday night and hundreds of thousands of state employees would have had to go on unpaid leave.
The background to the dispute was the compulsory vaccination
Biden was dependent on the cooperation of all senators from both parties in order to bypass the normal, day-long procedure and to approve the transitional budget in good time. However, a right-wing group of senators, led by Utah Senator Mike Lee, threatened to block the vote. The Democrats then agreed to allow a majority vote to lift the corona measures. As expected, this failed.
The background to the dispute with the Republicans was the mandatory vaccination issued by Biden. Companies with more than 100 employees are to be obliged from the beginning of next year to ensure that their employees are vaccinated or tested once a week. This is met with widespread opposition from Republicans.
Lee had said that millions of unvaccinated workers were at risk of losing their jobs because of the measures and downplayed the consequences of a so-called shutdown. The spokeswoman and senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, attacked Lee and his supporters sharply, accusing them of “disregard for science and public health”. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had also put pressure on Lee. The last shutdown in 2018/19 cost the American economy an estimated $ 11 billion.
With the vote won, Biden now has time to negotiate spending for the remainder of the 2022 budget year. The main focus is on a $ 1.75 trillion spending plan for social and climate issues. The bill is central to the Democrat’s legacy. However, he threatens to fail because of disputes between the progressive and moderate groups within his own party.
Problems are also caused by the statutory upper limit for borrowing. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the government is likely to run out of money on or shortly after December 15 if Congress does not raise the borrowing limit. Here the Republicans have announced resistance – although under Biden’s predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, they were still in favor of easing the debt ceiling.
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