Senate Passes Government Funding Resolution, Avoiding Shutdown

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The Senate passed a continuing resolution that will fund the federal government through March 11 in a 65-27 vote, averting a government shutdown.

The bill passed the House of Representatives on Feb. 8 in a 272-162 vote, but several Republican senators announced opposition to the funding. Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn placed a hold in response to a report alleging that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program would fund the distribution of crack pipes, and a group of seven senators demanded an amendment prohibiting the federal government from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandates. (RELATED: Must-Pass Government Funding Bill Hits GOP Roadblocks In The Senate)

Blackburn released her hold on Tuesday after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra wrote a letter promising that “no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”

The Senate opened debate on the package around 1:45 pm, and finished voting just before 7 pm.

The vaccine mandate amendments, proposed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, failed 46-47 and 44-49, respectively. The Cruz amendment would have taken away federal funding from schools that mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students. Lee’s amendment would prohibit federal funds from being used to enforce COVID-19 mandates issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Defense. The Supreme Court struck down in January a vaccine mandate set by OSHA that required people employed by companies with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or tested for the virus weekly. The Court upheld a similar mandate for healthcare employees.

Indiana Sen. Mike Braun also placed a hold, demanding a vote on a balanced budget amendment. That vote, which required 60 to pass, failed 47-45.

Seven senators, four Republicans and three Democrats, were not present for the vote. Republican Texas Rep. Chip Roy blasted the Republicans who missed the vote, arguing that they could have ended the vaccine mandates.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the funding resolution Friday, the same day current funding expires.