July 19, 2024

Sep. 30—Maine’s congressional delegation expressed relief Saturday after the House and Senate approved a 45-day funding plan to narrowly avoid a costly federal government shutdown that would have begun at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Three hours before midnight, the Senate voted 88-9 in favor of a continuing resolution that dropped $6 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of Republican lawmakers, but increased federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting President Biden’s full request.

“Today’s passage of a continuing resolution averts a shutdown and is a victory for common sense,” said Republican Sen. Susan Collins in a prepared statement. “Government shutdowns are harmful and should be avoided at all costs.”

Collins said shutdowns deprive the military, border patrol agents, air traffic controllers and airport security personnel of their paychecks while still requiring them to perform essential work.

“They hamper the delivery of many government programs upon which families rely,” she said. “They cause national parks like Acadia National Park to close, decreasing revenue for local small businesses and disappointing visitors. They halt essential biomedical research.”

Collins also noted that shutdowns actually cost taxpayers money by increasing the cost of short-term borrowing by the government and have an adverse impact on the entire economy.

A 2019 Senate report found that the last three government shutdowns — in 2013, 2018, and 2019 — cost taxpayers over $4 billion in all, including back pay to furloughed federal workers, additional administrative work, lost revenue and late fees on interest payments.

Sen. Angus King, an independent, supported the package despite the loss of Ukraine funding because he anticipates a separate spending bill focused on that country’s defense against Russia in the coming weeks. The White House wanted more than $20 billion; the bill passed with none.

“I would have preferred that the provision providing funding for Ukraine’s fight against Putin’s aggression have remained in the bill,” King said in a statement. “It’s removal by the House Republicans should not be seen as representing a meaningful shift in the overwhelming bipartisan support for Ukraine — both now and in the future.”

King said Saturday’s votes will sustain current government services and operations that every American relies upon.

“But it should not have come with so much bad faith and brinksmanship,” King said. “The fact that this 45-day spending bill doesn’t contain the drastic and damaging cuts sought by fringe members is a welcome reality check.”

The House passed the resolution 335-91 Saturday afternoon, with most Republicans and almost all Democrats — including Maine Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden — supporting it.

Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District, said a bipartisan plan to keep the government running had been in the works for months and should have been reached sooner.

“We never should have gotten to the point of being just hours away from a government shutdown,” she said in a statement. “This stopgap passed with votes from both sides, but nearly half the Republican conference was opposed. Democrats delivered the votes for enactment.”

Pingree said the stopgap plan isn’t perfect: Republicans’ denial of Ukraine funding in particular “is deeply concerning and could have grave consequences for Ukraine’s counteroffensive,” she said.

But H.R. 5860 was necessary to avoid the disastrous impacts that a shutdown would have on Maine communities, she said.

“Make no mistake: Congress still has a lot of work to do, and House Democrats will not back down in our fight to combat extreme, dangerous and short-sighted cuts to vital government services, programs and operations,” Pingree said.

Golden, of the 2nd District, also supported the continuing resolution, which will fund the government through Nov. 17.

“The only path to avoid a government shutdown was an agreement like the one I voted for this afternoon,” he said in a statement. “Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy did the right thing for the country by putting this 45-day extension on the House floor so that a strong coalition of Democrats and Republicans could sideline the self-absorbed hardliners that wanted to shut down the government.”

Golden said he will continue working to support the budget deal that Congress agreed to earlier this summer.

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