Congress OKs stop­gap bill to avert shut­down

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND NATION - By An­drew Tay­lor

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

SHAWN THEW/EPA

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell basks in the glow of the 72-26 vote Wednes­day.

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