Congress averts government shutdown – for now

The stopgap spending bill passed Wednesday buys Congress and President Obama nearly two months to hash out a longer term budget deal.

Andrew Harnik/AP
House majority leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., (second from right) leaves the House Chamber after the House approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government open, Wednesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

With just hours to go before the current federal budget runs out, Congress passed a spending bill that will keep the federal government running at full capacity for the next 10 weeks.

The US Senate passed legislation Wednesday morning to avoid a government shutdown by a 78-20 vote, sending the bill to the House of Representatives for ratification before the midnight deadline. The House approved the bill Wednesday afternoon with a 277-151 vote.

The budget keeps federal agencies funded at their current levels through Dec. 11, giving Congress and President Obama over two months to negotiate a longer-term budget deal for the next fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2016.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R) of Kentucky said he has recently spoken with President Obama and he expects budget talks to begin soon.

GOP leaders engineered this legislation to prevent a repeat of the partial federal shutdown that occurred two years ago over serious federal budget disagreements. Aimed at keeping federal agencies running, controversial provisions were stripped from the bill.

Some partisan issues in the original funding bill include freezing the budgets for the Pentagon and some domestic agencies at their current spending levels. But most importantly, the temporary budget ignores the latest tea party effort to completely defund Planned Parenthood.

Conservative Republicans wanted to cut off all federal funds to Planned Parenthood because of videos released this summer that allege the group participating in illegal for-profit sales of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing, arguing that the videos were deceitfully edited. 

Senate Democrats led a filibuster last week to block conservatives’ defunding of Planned Parenthood and Obama backed up their opposition with a veto threat. 

Senator McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio chose the pragmatic route over the partisan, which invited the wrath of a dominant tea party wing. Conservative GOP lawmakers helped bring down Boehner, who announced Friday that he will resign at the end of October. 

Boehner’s resignation decision highlights growing divisions within the Republican party driven by the growing tea party wing.

Eight of the 20 Republicans who opposed the bill are up for re-election. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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