This breast cancer charity is the big new ‘scam’ in politics

October 18, 2021

This October, as Americans mark another Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many organizations and advocates are looking for ways to support the cause. But The Daily Beast reports, there’s one group that donors may wan to avoid: The American Breast Cancer Coalition.

Although it sounds like a noble charity, the ABCC actually is a political group—a political action committee (PAC)—and rather than trying to actually address breast cancer, the ABCC appears to be a scheme to extract millions of dollars in donations, mostly from small contributors.

In recent robocalls, a feminine voice claims the goal of the group’s fundraising is to “support legislators who will fight for the fast-track approval of life-saving breast cancer health bills and breast cancer treatment drugs to the FDA.”

But financial records on file with the Internal Revenue Service tell a different story—reviewed in a joint investigation between The Daily Beast and OpenSecrets—revealing payments to firms with ties to a multimillion-dollar “scam PAC” network.

In May 2019, Bill Davis created the nonprofit, and the group quickly started raising money.

In the space of two years, ABCC has brought in nearly $3.57 million, according to IRS filings. But the nonprofit has so far paid nearly every dollar it has raised to fundraising companies. According to The Daily Beast, some of those companies even have ties to a telemarketing kingpin who was fined $56 million last year for bilking donors out of tens of millions of dollars in fake charity contributions.

What’s more, it’s not alone.

The ABCC is just one of a number of political groups masquerading as charities, known broadly as “scam PACs.” These shady organizations purport to raise money for a number of heart-tugging issues—e.g., law enforcement, wounded veterans, firefighters, children with disabilities—but plow nearly every dollar back into raising more money, often in major payouts to the same network of shady telemarketing companies and other firms.

By registering as a political group instead of a charity organization, scam PACs can usually operate in a legal gray area beyond the reach of authorities that regulate campaign finance and nonprofit activity.

But the ABCC case is even more brazen. Even though the ABCC is a PAC, unlike typical scam PACs, it has not registered with the Federal Election Commission. Instead, it has registered with the IRS as a “527” political group—an apparently recent (and legal) tactical shift to make investigations more difficult for the public, the press, and regulators.

Political groups known as 527s—so named after a section of the tax code that governs their operations—are tax-exempt nonprofits that are supposed to operate primarily to influence the “selection, nomination, election, appointment, or defeat of candidates for federal, state, or local public office.”

While 527s are allowed to make expenditures for reasons that do not relate to political campaign activities, such as lobbying, those groups may be subject to taxes on activities that do not further political purposes.

Any political group whose “major purpose” is the nomination or election of federal candidates is required to register with the FEC as a federal political committee. But these 527 groups are not subject to FEC oversight, and are often called “shadow groups.”

The IRS does require 527s to disclose and itemize all contributors that give more than $200 in a calendar year, as well as the expenditures that they make. But unlike federal political committees, whose contribution and expenditure data is readily searchable on the FEC website, information about these 527s is largely locked away in PDF files with the IRS and difficult to find and digest.

A number of 527 “shadow groups” share the same familiar raising and spending patterns. Among them are the Cancer Recovery Action Network, the National Cancer Alliance, the National Committee for Volunteer Firefighters, the American Police Officers Alliance, the National Coalition for Disabled Veterans and several similarly named organizations, which all pay a network of loosely affiliated companies.

Eric Friedman, head of Maryland’s Montgomery County Department of Consumer Protection, has spent the last two years unraveling these networks. In 2019, he busted a ring of scam PACs, and asked the FEC to investigate a group called the Breast Cancer Health Council.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Friedman likened the task to an “almost impossible” game of whack-a-mole, and said his small research team had also noted that groups have shifted from FEC-registered PACs to 527s.

“Scammers are clever and constantly moving. So it looks like the trajectory started as phony charities, [which] then decided they were better off operating as phony FEC groups, and now the latest transition—just in time for Halloween, I guess—is to be a phony PAC registered with the IRS instead of with the FEC,” Friedman said.

Asked why these groups have made the new shift, Friedman said it was complicated, “but the short of it is that it’s easier to hide what they’re doing, so we’re now looking at that phase of the scam.”

Lloyd Mayer, a nonprofit law expert at the University of Notre Dame Law School, explained why the change poses a new hurdle.

“The obvious reason to move away from being a federal political committee to a 527 is the FEC actually has a full staff look at all reports that are filed. The IRS could do that in theory, but they don’t,” Mayer said, noting that the available IRS staff—already stretched thin—is “an order of magnitude” smaller for this work.

“No one is looking to see if the filings make sense, if the math is correct, if the numbers are semi-accurate,” he added. “You could shade them, lie, misrepresent, fudge, make it hard to see.”

Phil Hackney, a nationally recognized nonprofit law expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, said he is most frequently concerned about the opposite scheme—political groups posing as nonprofits—and had never seen this approach.

“I don’t know of anybody looking at the question of someone using a 527 as a vehicle to carry out a scam. It’s actually hard to say something about it, because you don’t have a body of law addressing vehicles being used in this way, and I’m not sure if you could use tax law to crack down,” Hackney said.

But he noted that the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general may have jurisdiction “regarding consumer interest protections and possible wire fraud,” an observation shared by multiple campaign finance and nonprofit law experts.

Research contact @thedailybeast

USA will re-open Canadian and Mexican borders to fully vaccinated visitors

October 14, 2021

The United States plans to ease restrictions on travel for fully vaccinated visitors from Canada and Mexico starting in early November, relaxing bans that have been in place for more than 18 months, according to senior administration officials, reports CNN.

The new rules—which are similar to those announced for international air passengers—will be rolled out in a phased approach:

  • The first phase, kicking off in early November, will allow fully vaccinated visitors traveling for nonessential reasons, like visiting friends or for tourism, to cross U.S. land borders.
  • The second phase, starting in early January 2022, will apply the vaccination requirement to all inbound foreign travelers, whether traveling for essential or nonessential reasons.

“These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will create a consistent, stringent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling into the United States whether by land or air,” a senior administration official told reporters.

The United States has been limiting nonessential travel on the ground along its borders with Canada and Mexico since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and extending those restrictions on a monthly basis. Air travel between the US and those countries has been possible. The restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, or to people traveling for medical purposes or to attend school, among others.

The latest set of restrictions is due to expire on October 21. Senior administration officials said the limits on cross-border travel will remain in effect until a soon-to-be-disclosed date in November.

A Trump-era public health order that’s allowed for the swift expulsion of more than 958,000 migrants also will stay in effect. Those restrictions, while also based on public health, are necessary because of concerns over migrants in congregate settings when undergoing processing, officials said.

The travel restrictions had come under heavy scrutiny by lobbyists, lawmakers and border mayors who implored the Biden administration to adjust limits to meet the evolving landscape.

Research contact: @CNN

 

Obama to campaign for McAuliffe next week in tight race for Virginia governor

October 13, 2021

Former President Barack Obama will join a rally for Terry McAuliffe next week as part of an all-out effort by Democrats to win Virginia’s gubernatorial race, The Hill reports.

Obama will join McAuliffe on October 23 in Richmond. The news comes after McAuliffe’s campaign announced that First Lady Jill Biden and former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams will campaign with him this weekend.

McAuliffe, who is in a tight race with Republican Glenn Youngkin, made the announcement on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” exactly three weeks from Election Day in the Old Dominion. The voter registration deadline in Virginia is on Tuesday, October 12.

Youngkin’s campaign responded to the news, saying it was a sign McAuliffe’s campaign was getting nervous ahead of the election.

“Terry McAuliffe is scared because Virginians are roundly rejecting 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe’s plans to defund the police, strip parents of their rights to have a say in their children’s education, and to fire people who don’t follow his authoritarian vaccine mandates, so his response is to bring in more politicians to help draw a crowd larger than 12 people,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement to the Hill. “Glenn Youngkin is an outsider focused on delivering for the people of Virginia and making the state the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

The two are locked in a close contest that may come down to turnout on both sides. Democrats have won the presidential race in Virginia every cycle since 2008, when Obama was on the ticket.

A Christopher Newport University poll released last week showed McAuliffe leading Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin by 4 points, within the survey’s 4.2 percentage point margin of error. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a “toss-up.”

Research contact: @thehill

Democrats ponder dumping Iowa’s caucuses as the first presidential vote

October 12, 2021

President Biden is not a big fan. Former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez is openly opposed. And elsewhere in the Democratic inner sanctum, disdain for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucus has been rising for years, The Washington Post reports.

Now the day of reckoning for Iowa Democrats is fast approaching, as the DNC starts to create a new calendar for the 2024 presidential nomination that could remove Iowa from its privileged position for the first time since 1972, when candidates started flocking to the state for an early jump on the race to the White House.

According to the Post, the caucuses’ reputation has been damaged a number of factors—among them:

  • High barriers to participation,
  • A dearth of racial diversity,
  • The rightward drift in the state’s electorate, and
  • A leftward drift in the Democratic participants.

The Iowa state party’s inability to count the results in 2020 only deepened dismay in the party.

Biden, who handily won the party’s nomination in 2020, noted the lack of diversity in the caucus during the campaign—“It is what it is,” he said of the calendar—and called his fourth-place finish in the state a “gut punch.”

“We have to be honest with ourselves, and Iowa is not representative of America,” Perez said Friday in an interview with the Post. “We need a primary process that is reflective of today’s demographics in the Democratic Party.”

Others in Biden’s extended orbit have come to similar conclusions about the caucuses, for varied reasons.

“It is not suited to normal people, people that actually have daily lives,” South Carolina State Senator Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of that state’s Democratic Party and a longtime Biden ally, said of the caucuses. He described the laborious process of participating, over multiple hours, in person, on a weeknight, as far more restrictive than the requirements of a new voter law in Texas that Democrats universally oppose.

“I just think the caucus process as it exists in Iowa is not suitable in 21st-century America,” he said.

Those views are broadly held among party officers, even though Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, a former South Carolina party chair, says no decisions have been made. He intends to “let the process play out,” according to a statement to the Post. That process will be controlled by Biden and a small group of his allies, following the party’s tradition of granting the sitting president control over party decisions.

The first step took place Saturday, when the party met to accept a slate of at-large members and committee assignments that had been put forward by senior Democratic officials, in consultation with Biden aides. The number coming from Delaware, Biden’s home state, will bump to five from one; and the number of members from Washington, D.C., will rise from 15 to 20, which has angered some state parties that are losing representation.

A subgroup of those members, who sit on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, also were be confirmed. That group, little changed from the past cycle, has been charged with setting the calendar, with an expected decision as soon as the first half of next year, according to people involved.

“Given the unrepresentative nature of the electorate, the caucus procedures that make it virtually impossible for many people to participate, and the disaster in reporting this year, it’s hard to see how anyone can make the case for keeping it first with a straight face,” said one Democratic strategist involved in the calendar conversations, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations.

Another Democrat put Iowa’s situation in even more stark terms: “Iowa had no friends before the 2020 race, or it had very few friends. And it certainly doesn’t have any friends after the 202o race.”

In 2020, the Iowa caucuses kicked off the presidential nominating contest on February 3, after enjoying months of bus tours and advertising attention from the candidates. New Hampshire held the first primary on February11; followed by two more racially diverse states:  a caucus in Nevada and a primary in South Carolina.

Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price said on February 7, 2020, that he had

Leaders in Nevada, with the support of former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid (D), recently changed state law to transition from a caucus to a primary and schedule the date on the first Tuesday in February in a bid to increase the state’s importance.

Representative James E. Clyburn (D-South Carolina), a longtime Biden ally, has like Reid been critical of the demographics of New Hampshire and Iowa. Ninety-one percent of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa were White in 2020, according to entry polls.

Among the possible solutions is a party ban on allowing convention delegates to be nominated in any early caucuses in the 2024 cycle. Perez has advocated allowing multiple states, possibly including South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, to vote on the same day, forcing campaigns to split their early campaign resources more broadly in the early parts of their campaign.

There remains broad concern about giving larger states too much say in the party’s decision, as Democrats say they do want to allow for a process that encourages meeting with voters and gives less-well-funded or known candidates a chance to win on their merits.

“Iowa’s position is really in danger. On the other hand, I have got to say, when you look at the early states, you can’t have a big state. You don’t want people to be priced out,” said Jeff Weaver, a presidential campaign adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). “With California, Texas, Florida and New York as the first four, you would know who the nominee is before you even started.”

None of that means pushing Iowa to the side will be easy. Attempts by DNC commissions in 1978 and 1981 to change the date of the Iowa caucuses ultimately failed.

state law in Iowa requires the parties to hold their nominating caucuses at least eight days before any other state caucus or primary, and the state law in New Hampshire requires that its primary be at least a week before any other state. Republicans, who control government in both states, have made it clear that they plan to stick to tradition for their party in 2024.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump tells former aides to defy subpoenas from January 6 House panel

October 11, 2021

Former President Donald Trump has instructed his former aides not to comply with subpoenas from the special congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot—raising the prospect of the panel issuing criminal referrals for some of his closest advisers as early as Friday, October 8, The New York Times reports.

In a letter reviewed by the Times. Trump’s lawyer asked that witnesses not provide testimony or documents related to their “official” duties, and instead to invoke any immunities they might have “to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

The House committee has ordered four former Trump administration officials — Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Dan Scavino Jr., a deputy chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, an adviser; and Kash Patel, a Pentagon chief of staff — to sit for depositions and furnish documents and other materials relevant to its investigation. They all faced a Thursday, October 7, deadline to respond.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi—and the chairman of the select committee—has threatened criminal referrals for witnesses who do not comply with the subpoenas, and said the panel expected witnesses “to cooperate fully with our probe.”

The move amounted to a declaration of war by Trump on the investigation, and raised legal questions about how far the committee could go in compelling information from a former president and his advisers, the Times said.

The committee is demanding that Meadows and Patel submit to questioning on Thursday, October 14; and Bannon and Scavino, the following day.

While President Biden already has said that extending Trump’s “executive privilege” is unlikely, it remains unclear whether his Administration will see fit to offer the privilege to those who have been subpoenaed.

The Justice Department and the White House already have waived executive privilege for a previous batch of witnesses who were asked to testify before the Senate Judiciary and House Oversight committees, which were investigating both the January 6 attack and the Trump Administration’s efforts to subvert the results of the presidential election. The Justice Department argued that privilege was conferred to protect the institution of the presidency—not to provide immunity for wrongdoing.

Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, said that the records request by the select committee was “outrageously broad” and that it lacked “both legal precedent and legislative merit.

The instructions from Trump were reported earlier by The Guardian.

Research contact: @nytimes

L.A. mandates COVID vaccine proof for indoor restaurants, gyms, malls, salons, museums, and more

October 8, 2021

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a sweeping mandate on Wednesday, October 6—requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination to enter a wide variety of indoor venues as of November 4, KTLA 5 Morning News reports.

Under the ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council earlier Wednesday, patrons age 12 and older will have to show proof of full vaccination at indoor areas including restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, convention centers, card rooms, museums, malls, play areas, spas, salons and indoor city facilities

It’s one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates, according to the Associated Press.

The city’s ordinance expands on a countywide order that on Thursday, October 7, started requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination at indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs, lounges, and mega outdoor events.

There are exemptions to the city’s requirements: Those who self-attest to having a medical or religious reason for not getting vaccinated can instead provide a negative coronavirus test taken during the 72 hours before entering an indoor space.

Patrons who aren’t vaccinated and don’t qualify for an exemption can still opt to use outdoor areas of the venues. And they can be allowed to briefly go inside the location to use the restroom, order, or pick up an item if they’re masked.

“No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated,” L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez said , adding, “But if you don’t, there are certain things you will not be able to do without showing proof of vaccination.

“We’re getting tired of protecting people who do not want to protect themselves and get vaccinated,” Martinez said.

Some business owners said they were concerned about having to turn away customers while still recovering from the economic downturn.

“I feel like it’s necessary, but it is definitely going to hinder some regular business procedures,” said Curtis Park, owner of Coffee Memes cafe in Silver Lake. “I’m kind of happy, kind of worried.”

Research contact: @KTLAMorningNews

Biden: Curbing filibuster to raise debt limit is ‘a real possibility’

October 7, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, October 5, that Democrats are considering a change to Senate filibuster rules to bypass a Republican blockade over raising the debt limit, which has set the United States on a collision course with a government default, The New York Times reports.

“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Biden said when asked if Democrats were considering the last-resort route, which would involve making an exception to allow for a debt ceiling bill to pass with a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes needed.

Senate Democrats discussed carving out the exception at their weekly lunch on Tuesday. No conclusions were reached, but notably, according to participants, the two strongest opponents of filibuster changes—Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—did not speak up in protest. They also did not speak up in support.

However, on Wednesday morning, Manchin indicated that he would not support modifying the filibuster in order to deal with the debt ceiling.

The move, once nearly unimaginable in a chamber steeped in decorum, has come under discussion as the Biden Administration and congressional Democrats have explored ways to head off a government default without Republican support.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned lawmakers of “catastrophic” consequences, including a recession and financial crisis, if Congress does not act before October 18, when the government is projected to be unable to pay its bills.

On Wednesday, the Senate was scheduled to vote on whether to take up legislation to raise the debt ceiling until December 2022. But with ten Republican senators needed to join Democrats in support, the vote is expected to fail.

Some Democrats have expressed hope that if curbing the filibuster is the only avenue left, the party could muster 50 votes for the rule change.

Biden’s remarks on Tuesday evening, made as he returned to the White House after a trip to Michigan to sell a bipartisan infrastructure package and expansive social spending bill, reflected the president’s increasingly confrontational approach to a divided chamber that has presented him with one legislative obstacle after another as he tries to pass his domestic agenda.

“As soon as this week, your savings and your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House on Monday, October 4—cautioning that a failed vote on Wednesday could rattle financial markets, sending stock prices lower and interest rates higher. “A meteor is headed for our economy,” he said.

The president has also bristled at the ultimatum put forth by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who has said Democrats must use reconciliation—a more complicated process that could take a week or more to come together—if they want to overcome Republican opposition to raising the debt limit.

Research contact: @nytimes

DOJ issues warning amid spike in threats against school boards, principals, and teachers

October 6, 2021

U.S. Attorney-General Merrick Garland announced a crackdown on Monday, October 4, on threats against schools and teachers after a surge in verbal attacks by parents opposed to mask and vaccine mandates, and education on race bias, The Straits Times reports.

“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against teachers, school administrators and other staff, Garland said in a memo to the Justice Department and FBI.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal; they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland said.

“The department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate,” he said.

Garland did not mention what was driving the spike, and said he respected “spirited debate”.

But the memo came after dozens of incidents across the country in which irate parents—who object to mandates for student masking, vaccine requirements, and teaching children about structural racism in society—have been seen threatening school boards, teachers and school principals.

Last week, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) called on President Joe Biden to intervene after a surge in threats, many of them seen on viral videos taken at community meetings.

“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” said NSBA President Viola Garcia and CEO Chip Slaven in a letter to the president.

“The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation,” they said.

They detailed numerous violent threats and physical attacks, by parents angered by COVID-19 policies and opposed to what they wrongly believe is primary and secondary schools teaching “critical race theory,” an approach to social justice studies mostly taught at the university level.

“As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue,” they said.

A similar statement was issued by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) on September 22.

Research contact: @thestraitstimes

White House to reset messaging on spending bills

October 5, 2021

The White House is looking to reset the messaging this week around its multitrillion-dollar spending bills deadlocked in Congress, as President Joe Biden hits the road to pitch popular elements of the package. NBC News reports.

Officials are hoping to get the focus back on the content of the bills, like programs that would cut prescription drug prices and lower child care costs, and away from the process and debate over the price tag, which has been at the center of infighting among Democrats in Washington, said a White House official.

Biden will travel to the working-class town of Howell, Michigan, on Tuesday to “continue rallying public support” for the bills, the White House said on Sunday, October 3, in a statement. Biden said Saturday that he may make other stops this week, although the official said nothing has been finalized.

Biden said over the weekend that he believed the messaging around the bills had gotten muddled and that he hoped to improve the sales pitch. The bills—one for $550 billion on infrastructure and another for a proposed $3.5 trillion to fund a range of social programs—are part of a major campaign promise Biden made to rebuild the country’s physical and “human” infrastructure and have been the focus of his domestic policy agenda as president.

There’s an awful lot that’s in …  these bills that everybody thinks they know, but they don’t know what’s in them,” Biden told reporters on Saturday, October 2, adding, “When you go out and you test each of the individual elements in the bill, everyone is for them, not everyone, over 70% of the American people are for them.”

According to NBC News, both the infrastructure bill and the social spending measure have the support of Democrats—but moderates have pushed to reduce the size of the social safety net bill, while progressives insist the spending is needed especially following the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

Progressive House Democrats refused on Friday to vote for the smaller infrastructure bill until they had more assurances that the larger social spending bill also would pass the Senate. Both bills only need Democratic support because they are being put forward through a legislative process known as reconciliation.

In Washington, much of the focus by the White House this week will be on trying to reach an agreement among Democratic senators on the larger social safety net bill.

Biden had numerous phone calls over the weekend from his Delaware home with members of Congress, said the official, who declined to say which members.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Averting government shutdown, Biden signs funding measure just hours before deadline

October 4, 2021

Congress and President Joe Biden averted a government shutdown just hours before a midnight deadline on Thursday, September 30, with a bill that funds the government through December 3, USA Today reports.

Congress passed the bill earlier in the day and the president signed it into law shortly after, with less than five hours to spare.

The House voted 254-175 to approve the bill that raced through both chambers in a few hours. The Senate had voted earlier 65-35 to approve the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said the legislation would keep government services functioning, prevent furloughs for hundreds of thousands of workers, and protect the economy.

“A shutdown is not anything anyone wants,” Pelosi said.

“At this time – at any time – it is a very, very bad thing to let the government shut down,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

The vote capped days of drama in Washington, where a lack of action had federal offices preparing contingency and furlough plans for if the government shut down. A deal to keep the government running materialized Wednesday evening after Democrats gave up on an effort to include a provision to raise the nation’s limit on borrowing.

Government funding was set to expire with the end of the fiscal year Thursday at midnight. The temporary extension gives lawmakers more time to approve funding for an entire year of government operations.

Avoiding a shutdown cleared one of four contentious financial hurdles facing Congress in the next few weeks. The House was set to vote Thursday on an infrastructure bill, the timing of which has divided Democrats. Some Democrats argued the infrastructure bill should move in tandem with a $3.5 trillion package of Biden’s social welfare priorities, which is still under negotiation.

“It is a glimmer of hope as we go through many, many other activities,” Schumer said of the funding vote.

A shutdown would have furloughed hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal employees, forcing them to take time off without pay. Essential functions such as the military, law enforcement and air-traffic control would have continued functioning, but discretionary agencies such as the National Park Service would have closed.

A Congressional Budget Office report found a partial shutdown in 2019 cost the economy $11 billion, or more than $31 million per day.

The Senate voted down three Republican amendments to the bill that Democrats said would have scuttled it

  • Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkanasas), proposed to modify the eligibility of Afghan refugees for benefits in the United States;
  • Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), wanted to prohibit federal funding for COVID-19 vaccine mandates; and
  • Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) proposed  blocking congressional pay after October 1 in any year when the budget and spending bills aren’t approved.

According to USA Today, part of the reason why the spending vote came down to the wire was because Republicans and Democrats feuded over whether to include in the legislation a provision to raise the nation’s limit on borrowing. Congress must raise the country’s borrowing authority by October 18 or risk a default that economists warn would be an economic catastrophe.

Approval of the funding came quickly after Democrats abandoned their attempts to link the funding to an increase or suspension of the debt limit— an action conservatives and liberals agree needs to be taken so the country can continue to pay its bills and avoid worldwide economic chaos.

“We did not have to be in this place just hours before a shutdown,” said Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

Republicans have said Democrats will need to raise the debt ceiling on their own. On Monday, Senate Republicans blocked debate on legislation that would have addressed both extending funding for the federal government and raising the debt limit.

“The Democratic majority has begun to the realize that the way forward on basic governing duties matches the road map that Republicans have laid out for months,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). “We are able to fund the government today because the majority accepted reality.”

Research contact: @USATODAY