Congress Votes to Keep Government Open
This story has been updated.
House lawmakers late Wednesday passed a short-term continuing resolution by a vote of 342-85 that funds the government through Dec. 9. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, offered an amendment to the bill which would automatically extend the CR through Jan. 18 if lawmakers fail to agree on a subsequent deal to keep the government open after Dec. 9. The Senate passed the legislation earlier Wednesday on a vote of 72-26. The votes in both chambers avert a government shutdown just two days before the 2017 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Lawmakers tentatively reached the last-minute deal Tuesday night to avert a government shutdown on Saturday by agreeing to include funding to deal with the water crisis in Flint, Mich., in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act. The Flint funding, which is in the Senate version but not the House version of the waterways bill, became the major sticking point in negotiations over a continuing resolution to keep the government open past Sept. 30.
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Most Senate Democrats opposed the CR that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put forward because it didn’t include funding for Flint. The CR does include aid for communities devastated by recent floods in Louisiana and elsewhere, as well as money to combat the Zika virus.
Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, voted against the CR on Tuesday but after the deal was brokered, offered her support on the floor Wednesday. “This is an acceptable compromise,” said the outgoing senator, who represents 300,000 federal workers. “It might not be the most desirable because we will all – we could continue to debate and dispute that – but it is acceptable.”
Senate Democrats had wanted to include the Flint money in the CR because it’s considered must-pass legislation. Senate Republicans said they would get it into the House waterways bill eventually during conference over that legislation, but Democrats were skeptical, so they forced the debate into CR negotiations.
McConnell worked with the House leadership to get them to immediately amend the water projects bill to include the Flint funding – legislation the chamber is voting on Wednesday afternoon – so that the CR could move forward before Saturday. The two chambers still will have to hammer out differences on the waterways bill in conference this fall, so it will take some time for the money to get to Flint.