US Congress Passes Funding Bill, Government Shutdown Averted
The US Congress approved a stop-gap funding bill Wednesday that averts a looming federal government shutdown and provides urgently needed money to help battle an outbreak of the Zika virus.
Passage of the bi-partisan legislation came shortly after Republicans and Democrats ended its fight over whether Washington should provide aid to the city of Flint, MI, as it struggles with a crisis over contaminated drinking water.
Separate legislation was approved by the House of Representatives earlier in the day setting aid for Flint. It must now be reconciled with a somewhat different bill passed by the Senate.
The House voted 342-85 in a late-night session Wednesday to approve stop-gap funding to keep the US government operating from 1 October the start of the new FY, until 9 December, when lawmakers will attempt to approve longer-term money.
With existing funds due to expire Saturday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said the legislation “is a last resort, but at this point it is what we must do … to keep the lights on in our government.”
The Senate voted 72-26 earlier Wednesday to adopt the short-term spending bill.
Besides providing money to keep the government operating, the legislation also contains $1.1-B to battle the Zika virus that has hit Puerto Rico hard and spread to US states, most notably in South Florida. Funds would be used to develop a vaccine and reduce Zika exposure.
The bill also includes $500-M for flood relief in Louisiana and other states.
A Senate version of the bill contains $220-M for Flint and other cities with problem water systems.
The 2 chambers will have to hammer out compromise legislation after the November 8 presidential and congressional elections. Wednesday’s activity in Congress came as lawmakers rushed to recess this week until after the elections.
The Obama White House said it was disappointed that the temporary funding bill continued a provision barring the Securities and Exchange Commission from taking action to increase transparency in public companies’ political spending.
It also expressed disappointment that Congress failed to take steps to ensure that the Export-Import Bank was able to fully operate its loan guarantee programs.
US President Barack Hussein Obama is expected to sign the bill into law by Friday.