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Congress Plays Beat the Clock, Avoids Government Shutdown in the Nick of Time

Picture this: It’s almost like a scene from an action movie, but instead of Tom Cruise dangling from a skyscraper, it’s the U.S. Congress racing against time to prevent a government shutdown. And guess what? They did it! The U.S. House of Representatives, in a buzzer-beater move, passed a stopgap bill to keep the federal funds flowing through early March. Talk about a cliffhanger!

This whole escapade had a score of 314-108 in the House, kind of like a lopsided basketball game where even some team members were playing for the other side (106 Republicans and two Democrats voted against it). Earlier, the Senate had put on their game faces and passed the bill with a 77-18 vote, just ahead of the weekend deadline. It felt like watching the finale of a reality TV show where the vote is tallied just before the credits roll.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, feeling like the captain of a winning team, announced, “There will not be a shutdown on Friday.” This was met with cheers from some and jeers from others, especially a few far-right House Republicans who felt like they were getting the short end of the stick.

Adding a twist to this nail-biting saga, both chambers sped up their voting because of a snowstorm forecast for Friday. It’s like they were all trying to beat Mother Nature too! The Senate, led by Democrats, and the Republican-controlled House were already behind in their basic task of funding the government for the fiscal year. So, this was their sprint to keep the lights on a bit longer while they work on the full-year bill.

Now, here’s where it gets a bit spicy. Schumer and House Republican Mike Johnson had earlier agreed to a $1.59 trillion discretionary spending level. But, in true dramatic fashion, there’s disagreement on the actual amount, with Democrats saying it’s more like $1.66 trillion. It’s like they’re haggling over the price of an antique vase at a flea market.

The backdrop to all this is a whopping $34.4 trillion national debt, growing faster than a teenager during a growth spurt. And with those hefty interest payments, the Treasury Department might feel like it’s carrying a backpack full of bricks.

This latest “continuing resolution” or “CR” (which sounds like a new model of a sports car, but it’s not) is the third of its kind. It’s just extending last year’s spending levels until early March. It’s like hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock when you’re not quite ready to wake up.

With this temporary fix on its way to becoming law, all eyes are now on Congress to pass the full-year budget. In the House, Mike Johnson might be feeling the heat from some of his own party members who don’t like these CRs without some serious budget trimming. It’s like he’s a chef trying to please a restaurant full of picky eaters.

Remember Kevin McCarthy? Last fall, he got the boot from the speaker’s role after a similar bipartisan stopgap vote. Now, Johnson’s navigating these choppy waters, and some of his party members are grudgingly giving him a nod. Representative Tim Burchett, who had a hand in ousting McCarthy, seems to be taking a “it is what it is” approach. He thinks Johnson is just playing the hand he’s been dealt.

In conclusion, it’s like Congress pulled off a last-minute homework assignment. They’ve managed to avoid a shutdown, but the clock’s already ticking on the next big challenge: the full-year budget. It’s a never-ending cycle of fiscal drama, and our lawmakers are the main characters. Stay tuned for the next episode in the thrilling saga of “As the Budget Turns”!