Senate passes funding bill to avoid shutdown
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Wednesday passed a short-term bill to fund the government, days ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline to avoid a shutdown. 

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Senators voted 72-26 on the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through Dec. 9. With the legislation heading to the House, where it could be voted on as early as Wednesday, senators are expected to leave Washington until after the November election. 

Lawmakers had hoped for a brief September session that would let vulnerable incumbents get back to the campaign trail. Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats this year, and Democrats are defending 10. 

Instead, negotiations dragged out for weeks amid a myriad of policy battles, though leadership remained optimistic they would avoid a repeat of a 2013 shutdown. 

Twelve Democrats and 14 Republicans voted against the spending bill. Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTwo Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Democrats have no case against Amy Coney Barrett — but that won't stop them Pence-Harris debate draws more than 50M viewers, up 26 percent from 2016 MORE (D-Va.) — who is running for vice president and returned to the Senate briefly Tuesday — and Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE (I-Vt.) — who is out campaigning with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Ballot initiatives in Colorado, Louisiana could restrict abortion access Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event MORE on Wednesday — didn't vote. 

The White House formally signaled its support for the bill Wednesday, though the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement that it was "disappointed" that a provision allowing the Export-Import Bank to make transactions larger than $10 million was not included.

Wednesday's vote came after a late-night deal to include aid for the Flint, Mich., drinking water crisis broke a stalemate that was threatening to torpedo the Senate's bill.

House leadership will allow a vote on an amendment adding emergency funding for communities with lead-contaminated drinking water to a water infrastructure bill. 

Democrats, who had been holding up the government funding bill over Flint aid, quickly threw their support behind the agreement. 

"I've had conversations with people, I've been given the assurance by the Republican leadership that something will happen in the lame duck," Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid: Biden should give GOP three weeks to see if they will work with him Democrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-Nev.) said. "I'm comfortable in talking to [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] that the House feels comfortable with where they are on Flint."

In addition to Pelosi, Reid said he spoke with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) and Michigan lawmakers as they ironed out a final deal. 

The Senate's vote means that it will move before the House has formally added the Flint money to its version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) brushed aside questions about whether Democrats should hold off on supporting the Senate's CR until after the House passes its water bill, saying they had "strong assurances" from leadership.

Peters and Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowHealthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say Dems to focus on issues, not character, at Barrett hearings Lobbying world MORE (D-Mich.) vote against the spending bill because it did not include help for the drinking water crisis. He criticized the bill after the vote, saying "there is no excuse whatsoever for leaving the people of Flint behind."

The Senate CR also includes funding to fight the Zika virus, combat the opioid overdose crisis and provide emergency funding for floods in three states. 

Democrats quickly claimed victory after the vote, noting the bill included Zika funding, does not expand into next year, and does not include a push by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments Quinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas MORE (R-Texas) to block the Obama administration from transferring internet management authority to a global organization. 

Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length GOP anxiety grows over Trump political roller coaster MORE (R-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-Ohio), who are both running for reelection and supported the spending bill, praised it for including funding for the opioid crisis. 

"While there is more we need to do, this is an important step forward for New Hampshire," Ayotte said in a statement. 

Portman added that the money was "critically important" so that the administration can quickly implement the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that was passed this year. 

“One of my biggest priorities is to ensure that CARA is implemented as quickly as possible, and I’m going to continue to push the Obama administration to do so," he said. "This funding ... is a down payment that also puts us on a path to fully funding CARA." 

The Senate spending bill had drawn fierce backlash from conservative groups, who worry lawmakers will use a lame-duck session to break the budget caps.

"Leaders in both parties have agreed to tack on non-germane riders and promises to consider 'sidecar' legislation at another time," the Club for Growth said on Wednesday. 

Heritage Action is also opposed to the bill. 

Tiffany Muller, the executive director of the progressive outside group End Citizens United, also knocked the CR for not rolling back a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provision.

“Mitch McConnell’s obsession with protecting the shady, dark moneyed interests that put him in power is damaging our democracy," she added.

Democrats have expressed frustration that the bill wouldn’t reverse a policy rider included in last year’s omnibus appropriations package that blocks the SEC from requiring corporations to disclose political spending. 

Republicans are quick to note that because the SEC language is current law, they would have to attach a rider to this year's otherwise “clean” funding measure to unwind it.

- Updated at 4:03 p.m.