The House on Friday passed a bill that would keep the federal government running through next September, sending the measure over to the Senate hours ahead of a midnight shutdown deadline.
The $1 trillion funding agreement, which will fund three-quarters of the federal government, passed on a 296-to-121 vote: 147 Republicans and 149 Democrats voted “yes,” while 86 Republicans and 35 Democrats opposed the measure.
The Senate is expected to approve the measure, although the timing of the upper chamber vote remains unclear as leaders continue heated negotiations on a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and other key provisions that expire at the end of the month.
Passage of the bill appeared to be a sure thing earlier this week, as congressional leaders of both parties had focused their energies on debating not the funding measure but rather the payroll tax cut and the Keystone pipeline. The House earlier this month passed a proposal that would couple an extension of the payroll tax cut and other provisions with a measure that would force a decision on the pipeline, a move Democrats and the White House have rejected.
But both the funding plan and the payroll tax debate became intertwined after Democrats withheld their support for the former until leaders reached a deal on the latter. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are now leading those negotiations, which are increasingly focused on whether the Keystone pipeline provision will be included in a final payroll tax deal.
Congress faces a Dec. 31 deadline to approve an extension of the payroll tax holiday and other provisions.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said after Friday’s funding vote that the House would not meet over the weekend and that what date the chamber returns next week depends on the progress of the payroll tax negotiations taking place in the Senate.
“As all of my colleagues are painfully aware, the Senate has the ability to move both as quickly and as slowly as it wants, so, it is difficult to predict if or when we may need to return,” he said to laughter and applause from lawmakers. “My best guess is that the earliest we would return is this Monday, Dec. 19. But I can assure my colleagues that we will provide at least 24 hours’ notice prior to scheduling any further votes in the House this year.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), Cantor’s Democratic counterpart, then took to the floor. “Just to clarify, it is my understanding, therefore, that we do intend before we leave for the year to address the House-passed bill or a Senate version thereof,” he said.
Cantor responded: “As I indicated earlier, it is all pending the Senate’s action. And as I indicated, no one really knows how quickly or slowly that will occur or if it will occur.”
This story has been updated.