Vote ends shut­down af­ter just a few hours

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - AFP

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.

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