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: Congress votes to keep government open through mid-February

The Senate late Thursday passed a measure to head off a government shutdown, averting a partisan standoff over federal vaccine mandates that threatened to push a Friday deadline.

“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink of an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 69-28.

Earlier in the day, House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, announced an agreement to fund the federal government at current levels through Feb. 18. Without such a stopgap budget, the government would have partially shut down after midnight Friday. The measure also includes $7 billion for Afghanistan refugees.

The Democratic-led House passed the measure by a 221-212 vote, sending the measure to the Senate. The Republican leadership urged members to vote no; the lone GOP vote for the bill came from Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

In the Senate, a group of GOP conservatives had been planning to object to quick consideration of such a stopgap budget without an agreement to deny money to enforce the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large companies. Senate rules allow any one senator to stall a vote.

Read more: Biden administration asks court to allow employee vaccine mandate

And see: Congress faces shutdown deadline, hurdles for Biden’s Build Back Better plan

The shutdown was averted due to a compromise, giving Senate conservatives including Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah a vote on their push to defund Biden’s vaccine mandate, in exchange for agreeing to speed up a government-funding deal. The amendment was defeated, 50-48.

Republicans were not united in threatening a shutdown. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Wednesday, “I think we’re going to be OK,” when asked about the prospect of a shutdown. Thursday morning, Schumer said he and McConnell had agreed to keep the government funded through mid-February.

Biden said earlier in the day he didn’t expect a shutdown. “There is a plan in place, unless somebody decides to be totally erratic,” he said after a speech on COVID-19.

U.S. stocks traded sharply higher Thursday afternoon, with the Dow

industrials on track for the best percentage gain since last year, as investors attempted to look past the spread of coronavirus and a fuzzy path for monetary policy and the U.S. economy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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