Pence votes against bill to avert government shutdown

U.S. Representative Greg Pence. Friday, February 9, 2024. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., on Thursday voted against a short-term spending measure that would avoid a shutdown for parts of the federal government, including the Pentagon and the departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture, among others.

The measure, which cleared the House in a 320-99 vote, would keep one set of federal agencies operating through March 8 and another set through March 22, avoiding a shutdown that would otherwise kick in Saturday, The Associated Press reported.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later on Thursday. Should it clear the Senate, it would be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk before Friday’s midnight deadline.

Democrats overwhelmingly voted to avert a partial shutdown, according to wire reports. But the vote was much more divided with Republicans, 113 in support and 97 against.

The short-term extension is the fourth in recent months, and many lawmakers expect it to be the last for the current fiscal year, including House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The temporary extension funds the departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Interior and others through March 8. It funds the Pentagon, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the State Department through March 22.

Pence, who is not seeking reelection this year, had previously voted in favor of short-term spending measures to keep the government open in January, November and September, according to congressional records.

Johnson said that negotiators had completed six of the annual spending bills that fund federal agencies and had “almost final agreement on the others.”

At the end of the process, now expected to extend into late March, Congress is set to approve more than $1.6 trillion in spending for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 — roughly in line with the previous fiscal year. That’s the amount that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with the White House last year before eight disgruntled Republican lawmakers joined with Democrats a few months later and voted to oust him from the position.

Some of the House’s most conservative members wanted deeper cuts for non-defense programs than the agreement allowed through its spending caps. They also sought an array of policy changes that Democrats opposed. They were hoping the prospect of a shutdown could leverage more concessions.

The split within the GOP conference on spending and their tiny House majority has bogged down the efforts to get the bills passed on a timely basis, according to wire reports. With the Senate also struggling to complete work on all 12 appropriations bills, lawmakers have resorted to a series of short-term measures to keep the government funded.