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SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN

Congress averts government shutdown as Dems warn of consequences for Middle East and antisemitism

House Democrats lambasted Republicans for voting for a failed stopgap bill that would have enacted 30% cuts to many areas of the federal government

Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) speaks to members of the media outside the Senate Chamber following passage in the House of a 45 day continuing resolution on September 30, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Congress voted on a bipartisan basis on Saturday to keep the government open through late November, capping off a week of uncertainty with last-minute bipartisan votes in the House and Senate, hours before funding was set to expire.

The House vote, which split Republicans and required Democratic support, will reverberate into this week. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) announced plans to attempt to unseat House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Republicans are also pursuing measures — potentially expulsion or censure — to punish Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) for pulling a fire alarm in a House office building leading up to the vote; Bowman claims he was trying to open a locked door to get to the Capitol building.

The finalized stopgap funding measure includes neither additional funding for Ukraine nor the steep cuts to many federal agencies that House Republicans had been pursuing. On Friday, 198 Republicans voted for a stopgap funding bill that would have cut around 30% from a number of federal agencies; the bill that ultimately passed on Saturday largely continues current spending levels for the next month and a half. Republican and Democratic Senate leaders have plans to bring forward a separate Ukraine aid measure, and House Democrats are pressuring McCarthy to do the same.

Both before and after Saturday’s votes, some Democrats blasted Republican leadership for failing to provide aid to Ukraine, a concession to a growing isolationist wing of the party.

“The Republicans like to talk the long game about being pro-national security, but what we’ve seen… is that they’re willing to cave to the extremist MAGA Republicans and give in on issues [of which] they are supposed to be so strongly supportive,” Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) said at a press conference on Friday.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) argued that supporters of Israel should be “worried” about the “isolationist wing of the Republican Party,” which waylaid various spending efforts last week in opposition to Ukraine aid. “Those who have fought for aid to Israel for the last 40, 50 years have always known that you can’t be an isolationist except for Israel,” Sherman said.

At the Friday press conference, a group of ten House Democrats, all but one of them Jewish, lambasted their Republican colleagues for voting for the Friday stopgap bill that would have significantly cut funding to the State Department, Department of Justice and other federal agencies.

Photo by Marc Rpd

“If you are deeply cutting the State Department, how are they going to have the personnel in place, coming to work every day to make sure that we can stand up for our agreements, make sure that we can be there with our allies?” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said. “The Abraham Accords, the concerns that we have around the entire world — with a 30% cut, that is going to completely disable our ability to be there for our allies.”

Wasserman Schultz added that the bill would have “all but ensur[ed] that we fall short of our commitments to key regional partners who help guarantee Israel’s continued security and safeguard our interests in the Middle East and North Africa,” as well as impair the State Department’s ability to enforce sanctions on Iran. 

“How is our State Department supposed to enforce consequences for Iran after losing a third of its resources and personnel?” she questioned.

Wasserman Schultz added that the GOP’s proposed cuts would have also kneecapped efforts to fight antisemitism, support Holocaust education and pursue hate crimes and domestic terrorism through the FBI.

“In order to accomplish the ambitious goals to combat the world’s most ancient hatred,” she said, referring to the administration’s national strategy on antisemitism, “you need more resources, not less.”

McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment.

The Democrats also argued that bringing the government so close to a shutdown hampered critical work.

“Every agency in [the] government right now, their preoccupation now is getting ready for a shutdown. They’re not even focused on this work, they’re focused on who can actually work, who is essential,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said Friday.

Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN), Greg Landsman (D-OH), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) also appeared at the press conference. Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY) also warned of the GOP bill’s consequences for Israel aid in a statement to JI.

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