House approves stopgap funding, averting costly shutdown

House approves stopgap funding, averting costly shutdown
© Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday approved a bill to fund the federal government through Dec. 9, averting a costly shutdown two days ahead of the deadline.

The 10-week bill, which passed comfortably, 342 to 85, now heads to the president’s desk and sends lawmakers back to their district early for campaigning.

A majority of the Republican conference backed the bill, with just 75 Republicans opposing it. Ten Democrats voted against the bill.

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Lawmakers agreed to keep federal agencies running through Dec. 9, while also funding a $1.1 billion emergency aid package to halt the spread of the Zika virus. Flood-stricken regions in Louisiana, West Virginia and Maryland will also receive a half-billion dollars.

The monthslong marathon to fund the government turned into a sprint Wednesday as lawmakers raced toward the exits. The pre-election adjournment comes just a few weeks after Congress was out of session for a two-month summer recess.

The Wednesday evening vote caps a dramatic 24 hours of deal-making led by House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas MORE (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Both chambers signed off on the stopgap spending bill, just one day after the same bill was soundly rejected in the Senate.

The bill collapsed in the upper chamber on Tuesday mostly due to Democrats’ gripes about Republicans leaving out money to deal with lead contamination in Flint, Mich., while agreeing to fund flood relief in other states.

The dispute over Flint funding was swiftly — and quietly — resolved late Tuesday evening by Ryan and Pelosi, who huddled twice to work out an agreement.

House GOP leaders agreed to waive a budget rule to put $170 million for Flint in a separate water resources bill in exchange for Democratic support to clear the continuing resolution.

A bipartisan amendment authorizing the Flint aid sailed through the House Wednesday afternoon on a 284-141 vote.

While the water resources bill won’t land on the president’s desk until after the election, leading Democrats said the GOP’s promise to include the funding later was enough to secure their votes.

“This sends a strong message of support to aid Flint and I will not stop fighting until it reaches the president's desk,” Kildee said in a statement.

Ryan, who has repeatedly warned against last-minute budget cliffs, said this year’s agreement signaled that Republicans were living up to their promise of a “low-drama” budget season.

“We decided we don’t want to create brinksmanship. That doesn’t do anybody any good,” Ryan said Wednesday morning at the Economic Club of Washington D.C., adding that he worked closely with Pelosi to take the “sting” out of last-minute budget deals.

While the bill includes a full year of funding for military and veterans programs, the rest of the budget negotiations for the 2017 fiscal year will be pushed into the lame-duck session of Congress — a timeframe that has drawn sharp criticism from conservative groups who fear year-end spending deals.

The tougher task ahead for GOP leaders will be working on a budget deal that avoids the unpopular catch-all spending bill known as an omnibus. Instead, Ryan has said the House will tackle smaller appropriations packages called “minibus” bills, though members of his own party have voiced doubts over the strategy.

Conservative outside groups have also criticized McConnell and Ryan for failing to use the must-pass budget bill as a way to advance more GOP priorities.    

The bipartisan bill, drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' MORE (R-Ky.), takes few stabs at Democrats.

While the Senate GOP kept a provision that allows companies to avoid campaign finance disclosure, leaders agreed to drop even more controversial language on money going to Planned Parenthood in a Zika funding bill.

McConnell also kept out a provision, pushed by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzState Department's top arms control official leaving Sanders NASA plan is definitely Earth first Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-Texas), that would kept the authority of internet domain names in the hands of U.S. regulators, as well as one that would have fully revived the Export-Import Bank, backed by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-S.C.).

Lawmakers were eager to leave Washington and head home as soon as a spending bill cleared both chambers.

The House was originally slated to consider a resolution holding the former State Department staffer responsible for setting up Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMissing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani On The Money: Trump downplays urgency of China trade talks | Chinese negotiators cut US trip short in new setback | Trump sanctions Iran's national bank | Survey finds Pennsylvania, Wisconsin lost the most factory jobs in past year Meghan McCain, Ana Navarro get heated over whistleblower debate MORE’s private email server in contempt of Congress on Thursday. But GOP leaders decided to postpone the vote until after Election Day in order to allow members to depart as soon as possible.

Congress is expected to return on Nov. 14.