Congress averts government shutdown just hours before its deadline

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., runs up the East Capitol stairs as the deadline to avert a partial government shutdown approaches on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 30, 2023. (OSV News photo/Ken Cedeno, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Congress passed a stopgap funding measure Sept. 30, just a few hours before its deadline to avert a federal government shutdown.

Advocacy groups, including the U.S. bishops’ conference, previously cautioned against a shutdown, urging lawmakers to come to an agreement and keep the government open. The U.S. bishops expressed concern about how a government shutdown could impact the poor and vulnerable, as well as ministry to U.S. military personnel.

Both chambers voted to pass a “clean” continuing resolution that funds the government at current spending levels through Nov. 17. The Senate voted 88-9 and the House voted 335-91 to approve the measure.

The continuing resolution contains $16 billion the Biden administration requested to assist victims of natural disasters. But the measure lacks aid for Ukraine amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of that country.

In a Sept. 30 joint statement, six senators from the chamber’s leadership and the Senate Appropriations Committee said they “welcome today’s agreement to avoid a harmful and unnecessary shutdown of the federal government,” but it “leaves a number of urgent priorities outstanding.”

“In the coming weeks, we expect the Senate will work to ensure the U.S. government continues to provide critical and sustained security and economic support for Ukraine,” the senators said. “We support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its sovereignty against Putin’s brazen aggression, and we join a strong bipartisan majority of our colleagues in this essential work. With the eyes of our partners, allies, and adversaries upon us, we keenly understand the importance of American leadership and are committed to strengthening it from Europe to the Indo-Pacific.”

Signing the letter were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Susan Collins, R-Maine, vice chair of that committee; Chris Coons, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Chairman; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a ranking member of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

As Congress appeared to be on the verge of a shutdown, the U.S. bishops urged lawmakers to come to an agreement to keep the government open, as well as other Catholic advocates for the poor, arguing some services may be impacted for those in need.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote in a Sept. 21 letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate that “on numerous occasions over the past several decades, the USCCB has called for bipartisan action to avert or bring an end to federal government shutdowns and the hardships that come when Congress and administrations fail to reach agreements on such actions.”

“The bishops renew our call for bipartisan cooperation on a CR to avoid a government shutdown and enact a just budget that reduces future unsustainable deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity,” the letter said. “The Conference remains committed to working with you and the Administration toward these ends.”

In a statement issued in his capacity as archbishop of the military archdiocese, Archbishop Broglio previously urged “prayer that our leaders in Congress find a way to consider the needs of the Country and set aside animosities so as to break through the budget impasse.”

“In the event of a government shutdown, active-duty military chaplains will be able to continue celebrating Mass and providing pastoral care,” he said. “I am urging civilian priests working as civil servants, or those under contract with the Defense Department, to substitute for the priests in neighboring parishes and invite those priests to celebrate Mass at the installation. Religious support contractors including musicians and educators will be prevented from providing their services to military families, as well. It is deplorable that a law from the 19th century, the Antideficiency Act, effectively cancels the First Amendment rights of believers.”

Failure to pass a budget, Archbishop Broglio said, “negatively impacts religious expression in the military as this Archdiocese and many of my priests are blocked from ministry.”

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