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Congress avoids government shutdown. How did Nebraska's delegation vote?

Congress avoids government shutdown. How did Nebraska's delegation vote?

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With President Joe Biden's government overhaul at stake, Democrats charged into trouble Thursday as a promised vote on the first piece, a slimmer $1 trillion public works bill, faltered amid stalled talks on his more ambitious package.

Congress avoided a government shutdown Thursday, and it did so without support from the five members of Nebraska's congressional delegation. 

The three members of the House and two senators joined a majority of their fellow Republicans in opposing the measure, which will fund the government through Dec. 3.

The legislation was needed to keep the government running once the current budget year ended at midnight Thursday. Its passage buys lawmakers more time to craft the spending measures that will fund federal agencies and the programs they administer.

The House approved the measure by a 254-175 vote not long after Senate passage in a 65-35 vote. A large majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against it.

How they voted...

In statements, Nebraska congressional members cited a range of reasons for opposing the legislation — though several directed their critiques at the spending habits of Washington.

“Congress’ broken budget process is not good for our country," Sen. Deb Fischer said. "Instead of funding the spending priorities of the past, we need to make tough decisions and pass a responsible budget that properly addresses the current needs of the nation.”

Fischer's fellow Nebraskan in the U.S. Senate, Ben Sasse, shared similar criticisms over the process.

“I opposed this stopgap for the same reason I’ve opposed nearly every stopgap before: Washington‘s bipartisan habit of pinballing from one crisis to the next makes things worse, not better," he said. "Going from one stopgap to the next is a bad way to govern and will only leave our kids and grandkids with debt and decline.”

In the House, Nebraska's representatives took issue with specific provisions — or lack thereof — rather than process alone. 

Rep. Don Bacon, who represents the Omaha area, cited the failure to include funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

A bill originally advanced by the House last week removed a provision that would have provided $1 billion for the system. The Israeli government requested the funding, which the Biden administration endorsed after rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in May.

The exclusion sparked outrage among some members of the House, which ultimately passed a separate bill for the Iron Dome funding. That bill is expected to be considered in the Senate in the future.

“To be frank, I voted against this bill because it did not include funding for the Iron Dome," Bacon, a retired brigadier general, said. "House Democrats tried to overcome the blunder of not including it in previous bills by voting to fund it … but they didn’t provide the funds in this bill, so it doesn’t exist."

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry pointed to late additions to the package as the reason for his "no" vote. Fortenberry represents Nebraska's 1st District, which includes Bellevue and Lincoln.

“We learned late in the process that additional policy considerations were added without proper vetting,” Fortenberry said, though he did not specify what those late additions were.

The vote to keep the government open occurred as Congress tries to address a raft of consequential items, including the nation's debt limit and spending packages prioritized by President Joe Biden. 

Congressional Democrats remain at odds over spending amounts.

Rep. Adrian Smith, who represents Nebraska's vast and mostly rural 3rd District, said Thursday's vote symbolized a failure of leadership by Democrats, who currently control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

“Democrats have known for nine months that the next fiscal year starts October 1st, but instead of governing they have spent this time arguing amongst themselves over how many additional trillions of dollars to tax and spend. The fact they needed to pass a continuing resolution today shows how they’ve squandered their responsibility to efficiently get this done, and Nebraskans are fed up.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press.


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