Leahy, Sanders divided on stop-gap measure to avert government shutdown

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 12:49 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (WCAX) - The Senate voted Tuesday to move forward with a stop-gap bill needed to keep the federal government running past Friday, leaving out a controversial oil and gas permitting reform measure that had split Vermont’s congressional delegation.

With funding set to run out when the new fiscal year begins on Saturday, Senator Patrick Leahy and other top lawmakers Monday night proposed a continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down. Along with aid for Ukraine and other priority budget items, the continuing resolution has $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The funding is considered especially critical this year with the high cost of heating fuels caused by inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the measure also included energy permitting reforms supported by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, that are opposed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Democrats.

Sen. Leahy, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that while he’s disappointed with the Manchin side deal, the bill is critical. “With four days left in the fiscal year, we cannot risk a government shutdown; we must work to advance this bill,” Leahy said in a statement.

New England governors including Phil Scott and Chris Sununu on Monday were among those that sent a letter to Leahy and other lawmakers urging adding up to $500 million of emergency supplemental funding to the LIHEAP funding. Gov. Scott says that would help, but that he’s also prepared to dip into state financial surpluses to keep Vermonters warm. “I think we’re all on the same page here. We need to get people through the winter because we don’t know what the impact of what the weather will be over the next few months,” he said.

Manchin announced that he had asked leaders to remove the language prior to Tuesday’s vote.

In a statement, Sen. Leahy said the bill’s effects is only temporary, but saying that in a time where everything costs more “running on autopilot after December would be irresponsible,” and that too many programs rely on the funding to risk stopping it.

Leahy went on to say “It’s simple math. Enacting full-year appropriations bills into law must be our top priority. We owe it to the American people who sent us here.”