Vote ends shutdown after just a few hours
WASHINGTON: US congress last night passed a spending bill after hours of delay, sending the measure to Donald Trump to end the nation’s second government shutdown in three weeks.
The House of Representatives voted 240 to 186 in support of the bipartisan package.
The pre-dawn vote ended a 5½-hour federal freeze that relatively few would have noticed.
Most Democrats opposed the measure, following the lead of minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who tried but failed to use the moment to secure a promise for a separate vote on immigration.
Up to the final minutes, it was not clear the bill would pass and many Democrats held their votes, allowing the tally to creep slowly and giving no indication which way it might fall.
House Speaker Paul Ryan urged congress to avoid a “second needless shutdown in a matter of weeks — entirely needless”.
The deal extends government funding until March 23 and lifts federal spending limits by nearly $US300 billion ($385bn) over the next two years, after the Senate cleared the measure in the middle of the night.
Congress had missed a midnight Thursday deadline (4pm AEDT yesterday) when conservative Republican senator Ron Paul refused to allow an early vote on the compromise bill, but now a signature by Mr Trump, who supports the deal, will reopen government offices. The measure had passed 71 to 28 in the Senate just after 1am (5pm AEDT).
The Trump administration was already preparing for a halt in operations. An official from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget called on legislators to get the measure to Mr Trump’s desk “without delay”.
The bill would break the cycle of funding crises in time for what is set to be a bruising campaign for November’s midterm elections.
The rebellion that simmered among Republicans and Democrats over the budget boiled over when Senator Paul brought the Senate’s work to a halt. Moving legislation swiftly through the Senate requires consent by all 100 members, but Senator Paul objected, taking the floor to blast the increase in spending limits, and in particular the fiscal irresponsibility of his own party.
“I can’t in all good honesty and all good faith just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits,” he said.
“If you’re against president (Barack) Obama’s deficits, but you’re for the Republican deficits, isn’t that the very definition of hypocrisy?”
Democrat Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer warned that the delay put legislators “in risky territory”. Senate majority whip John Cornyn also fumed about Senator Paul’s gambit. “I don’t know why we are basically burning time here,” he said. “We are in an emergency situation.”
The temporary spending bill incorporates the major budget deal reached between Senate leaders on both sides of the political aisle. It includes a $US300 billion increase to military and nonmilitary spending limits for this year and 2019. It also provides a $US90 bn disaster relief package and funding to address the opioid crisis.
Democrats had sought to link the budget to a permanent solu- tion for hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers who were brought to the country illegally as children. The White House’s proposal — to put 1.8 million immigrants on a path to citizenship, but also boost border security, and curtail legal immigration — has been panned by Democrats.
To end last month’s two-day shut down Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell agreed to a vote on Dreamers next month in exchange for its decoupling from the budget bill.