U.S. Congress passes short-term bill to
avert government shutdown
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[April 29, 2017]
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-led
Congress averted a U.S. government shutdown on Friday and gave lawmakers
another week to work out federal spending through Sept. 30, with tricky
issues like defense spending still unresolved.
The Senate passed a stopgap spending bill by voice vote without
opposition after the House earlier approved it by a tally of 382-30.
President Donald Trump later signed the legislation, preventing a
shutdown of many parts of the federal government on Saturday, his 100th
day in office.
The bill provides federal funding through May 5, allowing lawmakers to
hammer out legislation in the coming days to keep the government funded
for the rest of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
Congress for months has been tied in knots trying to untangle $1
trillion in spending priorities. Lawmakers were supposed to have taken
care of the current fiscal year appropriations bills by last Oct. 1.
Democrats backed the stopgap bill a day after House Republican leaders
again put off a vote on major healthcare legislation sought by Trump and
opposed by Democrats to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act, dubbed
Obamacare, after Republican moderates balked at provisions added to
entice hard-line conservatives.
Republicans, already facing accusations from the opposition Democrats
that they are unable to govern even though they control Congress and the
White House, are motivated to avert the first government shutdown since
2013, but contentious matters remain on a spending bill covering the
final five months of the fiscal year.
With Trump seeking $30 billion in new defense spending in the measure
and Democrats arguing that other domestic programs also need more money,
congressional negotiators are moving toward a compromise.
Republican and Democratic negotiators have discussed a possible $15
billion defense spending hike, half of Trump's request, according to two
congressional aides familiar with the matter. It was unclear whether
Democrats will continue to insist other domestic programs get a similar
funding increase. Such equal treatment was at the core of some previous
Unlike the simmering fights in Congress over healthcare and taxes, in
which Republicans are pursuing purely partisan legislation, major
spending bills generally need bipartisan support for passage, lending
some optimism that the negotiations will end next week without a federal
House and Senate appropriators were expected to work through this
weekend, but there were no guarantees they would be able to find common
ground that would prevent parts of the government from shutting down on
Congressional negotiators also have been struggling over funding to make
a healthcare program for coal miners permanent and whether to plug a gap
in Puerto Rico's Medicaid program, the government health insurance
program for the poor.
'BIT MORE TIME'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the stopgap bill, which kept
funding at current levels, "will carry us through next week so that a
bipartisan agreement can be reached." McConnell said he expected the
House by the middle of next week to approve and send to the Senate the
spending bill for the remaining five months of the fiscal year.
[to top of second column]
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (R) attends a news
conference on President Trump's first 100 days on Capitol Hill, next
to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in Washington, U.S
April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there were still
significant differences with Republicans over elements of the
looming longer-term spending bill but "we're willing to extend
things for a little bit more time" in hope more progress can be
The No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said he would
oppose any more temporary spending bills for this year.
During debate in the House, lawmakers expressed frustration at the
inability of Congress to take care of the basic functions of
government in a timely manner.
"We are seven months into the fiscal year," said Representative Nita
Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations
Committee. "Federal departments and agencies have been operating on
outdated funding levels and policies for more than half of the year.
This is unacceptable and it cannot continue."
Lowey noted that this was the third stopgap spending measure passed
since the fiscal year began last October.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters aboard Air Force
One the White House feels "very good" about getting the funding
extension next week through the end of the fiscal year.
Trump earlier bowed to Democratic demands that the spending
legislation for the rest of the fiscal year not include money to
start building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border he said is needed
to fight illegal immigration and stop drug smugglers.
The Trump administration also agreed to continue funding for a major
component of Obamacare despite Republican vows to end the program.
(Reporting by Rick Cowan; Additional reporting by Steve Holland
aboard Air Force One and Patricia Zengerle, Amanda Becker and Susan
Cornwell in Washington; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Jonathan
Oatis and Bill Trott)
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