Last-minute temporary funding deal may help U.S. government avoid shutdown

Funding for the federal government runs out Friday at midnight. House Democrats passed a short term measure Thursday to keep the government funded through February, but a group of Republican lawmakers in the Senate are threatening to force a shutdown over President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate. Judy Woodruff and congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins to break down the latest negotiations.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Funding for the federal government is due to run out tomorrow at midnight.

    Today, House Democrats passed a short-term measure to keep the government funded through February. But a group of Republican lawmakers in the Senate are threatening to force a shutdown to fight President Biden's vaccine mandate.

    To help break all this down, I'm joined by our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    So, Lisa, we're right up on the deadline.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Here we are.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Where does everything stand?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, we have had some stormy days this week and many other weeks. But I am here to report, in the last few minutes, a rainbow may be forming above the United States Senate.

    In just the past few minutes, I have multiple sources telling me that it looks like there is a deal to get past the problems in that body. Let me first back up at where — what we know, OK? Let's talk about what this temporary funding deal would do.

    First of all, we're talking about a continuing resolution, that sort of paradoxically named funding bill that the House voted on just in the last couple of hours. That would extend funding for the U.S. government through February 18.

    Now, in it, also, I want to mention is $7 billion, importantly, for Afghan refugees who have been brought to this country after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    Now, the issue, as you said, there were — there's a group of Senate Republicans who have been blocking the fast-tracking of this bill. Now, those Senate Republicans object to it — are trying to push one particular issue, the issue of vaccine mandates, which they oppose.

    We're talking about a few members. Senator Mike Lee of Utah is one of them. He would like the Senate to pass a bill banning any funding of vaccine mandates. He thinks the government should not be in that business. With him, Senator Roger Marshall, a freshman senator. Those two have the power to delay any funding bill long enough to cause a funding shut — a government shutdown at least into next week.

    However, in the past few minutes, I understand that there is an emerging deal, Senator Marshall has confirmed. And I have sources in both parties and in both chambers saying that there could be a vote now tonight, because they're giving Senator Lee what he wants, a vote on his idea on opposition to vaccine mandates.

    Why would Senate Democrats do that? Because it's likely to fail. There's complicated reasons why, including an absence from one Republican senator. But, right now, it looks like Senator Lee will get a vote tonight that he wants, and then this resolution to keep government funding could go through the Senate and be passed as soon as tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, the ice is breaking on that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, meantime, Lisa, is it your understanding that this question of vaccine mandates is a one-time thing, or is this something that we could see coming up again?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    No, this will come up again, and it will likely come up again next week in the U.S. Senate, when Senate Republicans have used a privileged maneuver to again come back and openly question President Biden's idea to impose vaccine mandates on large companies.

    There will likely be a vote on that next week in the U.S. Senate. But this is beyond the U.S. Senate.

    Judy, I want to show a photo of what happened today in the state of New Jersey, in Trenton, in the U.S. — Capitol. This is a site of reporters trying to get there into the General Assembly being blocked by police officers, because there is a new rule in the statehouse there that you must have proof of vaccination or a positive — or a negative COVID test to get in.

    And the state — the speaker of the state Assembly there has been pushing that. But Republicans pushed back. And Republicans entered the chamber, against that rule, tested whether the police would stop them or not. There were some potential confrontations there, some chaos in the New Jersey Statehouse over this exact issue.

    And I think we're going to see this across the country in different forms. And it will be in the U.S. Capitol again next week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Along partisan lines.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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