Congress OKs stopgap bill to avert shutdown
WASHINGTON — Averting an election-year crisis, Congress l ate Wednesday sent President Barack Obama a bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 9 and provide $1.1 billion in funding to battle the Zika virus.
The initial sweeping 7226 Senate vote came after top congressional leaders broke through a stalemate over aid to help Flint, Mich., address its water crisis. Democratic advocates for Flint are now satisfied with Republican assurances that money for Flint will be finalized after the election.
The House then cleared the measure by a 342-85 vote just hours after the bipartisan Senate tally.
The White House said Obama will sign the measure and praised the progress on Flint.
The hybrid spending measure was the last major item on Capitol Hill’s preelection agenda and capped months of wrangling over money to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The spending bill also includes $500 million for flood-ravaged Louisiana and other states.
The House easily passed a water development projects bill after ratifying, by a 284-141 vote, a compromise $170 million Flint aid package. The move to add the Flint package to the water projects bill, negotiated by top leaders in both parties, was the key to lifting the Democratic blockade on the must-pass spending bill.
The deal averts a potential federal shutdown and comes three days before the midnight deadline.
Democrats claimed a partial victory on Flint while the GOP-dominated Louisiana delegation won a down-payment on Obama’s $2.6 billion request for their state.
The temporary government-wide spending bill stalled in the Senate on Tuesday over Democrats’ demands that the measure include $220 million in Senate-passed funding to help Flint and other cities deal with lead-tainted water.
Democrats said they were not willing to accept a promise that Flint funding would come after the elec- tion, but they won stronger assurances from top GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and agreed to address the city’s crisis in the separate water development bill.
The Flint issue arose as the final stumbling block after McConnell added the flood aid for Louisiana to the spending bill.
Democrats argued it was unfair that the water crisis in Flint has gone on for more than a year with no assistance, while Louisiana and other states are getting $500 million for floods that occurred last month.
Many House Republicans have resisted helping Flint, arguing that the city’s problems are a local issue and that many cities have problems with aging water systems.
Flint’s drinking water became tainted when the city, then under state control, began drawing from the Flint River in 2014 to save money. Regulators failed to ensure the water was treated properly and lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply. As many as 12,000 children have been exposed to lead in water, officials say
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basks in the glow of the 72-26 vote Wednesday.