US Congress averts shutdown, passing stopgap spending bill
The US Congress easily passed a one-week stopgap spending bill Friday, assuring there is no embarrassing government shutdown on the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency.
After weeks of tense negotiations over federal spending, the measure sailed through the House and Senate just hours before a midnight deadline.
It now heads to Trump’s desk, and the president is expected to sign it later Friday.
The bill extends current funding levels until May 5, giving lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Congress one week of breathing room to hash out a measure that funds government operations through September, when the fiscal year ends.
With lawmakers mindful of the midnight deadline, the measure cleared the House of Representatives 382 to 30, with broad bipartisan support.
Minutes later, the Senate approved it by a simple voice vote.
Congressional leaders have said the two sides have made important progress on the broader spending bill and that an agreement was within reach.
“But we shouldn’t be in this situation,” Senate Democrat Patrick Leahy said.
“We shouldn’t have allowed partisan politics once again to turn a looming deadline into a political standoff.”
The temporary bill sets aside several contentious elements which have been the focus of bitter rhetorical feuding in recent days.
It leaves out funding for the wall that Trump has pledged to build on the southern US border with Mexico. Democrats have warned they will not support a funding measure that includes appropriations for the wall, but they are open to funding for broader border security elements.
The spending bill is also expected to continue to fund subsidies for low-income Americans purchasing health insurance as part of Obamacare.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi said the White House signaled “they would be going forward with the cost-sharing funding,” but the length of that funding remained unclear.
“Not all the poison pill riders have been eliminated, some have. A good number have,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, referring to controversial provisions that could sink the legislation.
“We’re willing to extend things for a little bit more time in hopes that the same kind of progress can continue to be made, but we still have a little bit of a ways to go.”
Trump had been seeking a major legislative victory to cap his first 100 days in office, but it has proved elusive.
His White House had been pushing hard for Congress to ram through a bill that repeals much of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care reforms of Trump’s predecessor.
Republicans this week resurrected their health bill after initial efforts collapsed last month, when party moderates and conservatives failed to unite on how to repeal Obamacare. They want to replace it with a measure that lowers premiums and other costs and does not leave millions uninsured.
After flirting with a vote on the new measure this week — a move that angered Democrats — Republicans backed away, acknowledging they were shy of the votes needed to get them across the finish line.