Congress clears bill to prevent shutdown – Politico
Congress hit the exits Wednesday night, with the House and Senate passing legislation to avoid a government shutdown and lawmakers skipping town until after Election Day.
The weeks-long funding fight was resolved rapidly after a bipartisan deal was hatched by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to ensure that Flint, Michiganâs water crisis is addressed in the lame duck session.
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The bill flew through Capitol Hill â first being passed by the Senate, 72-26, and hours later by the House, 342-85. The legislation, which had White House backing, would fund the federal government through Dec. 9, provide $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus and send $500 million to Louisiana and other states facing natural disasters.
The push to finish everything on Wednesday picked up steam after both chambers quickly â and overwhelmingly â voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill allowing families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. That left the budget measure, called a continuing resolution, or CR, as the last piece of major business.
With that package expected to land on the president’s desk in short order, lawmakers will cast their next roll calls in Washington during the lame-duck session in mid-November.
The biggest hurdle to a quick getaway was Democratsâ demand that money be added to the CR to help the 100,000 people in Flint who faced lead-contaminated drinking water. But Republicans wouldnât budge, and said Flint should be dealt with in a water infrastructure bill moving through Congress.
Ryan and Pelosi worked out an agreement Tuesday evening to allow a floor vote on an amendment to authorize $170 million for Flint in the water bill. The Senate has already passed a version of its bill that includes $220 million in appropriations for Flint and other cities.
While the move didn’t satisfy all Democrats, who wanted the Flint money to be in the CR, most were assured that the beleaguered Michigan city would ultimately receive federal aid during post-election negotiations. The House adopted the Flint amendment and passed the bill easily Wednesday night.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said earlier in the day that Senate Democrats were prepared to accept the bipartisan House deal on Flint.
âI am convinced that there is going to be help for Flint in the lame duck,â Reid said. âTheyâve been waiting for help, they deserve help. I am very happy it is going to come.â
Meanwhile, Pelosi issued a statement on the Flint amendment Wednesday afternoon saying the vote would “begin to narrow the gap between the House and Senate.”
“I appreciate the commitment of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Harry Reid to ensure that the Senate language will prevail in the House-Senate conference,” Pelosi said.
Republican leaders likewise sounded confident they would avert a government shutdown.
âYou donât see a lot of talk about a government shutdown right now,â Ryan said at the Economic Club of Washington Wednesday morning. âWhy? Because weâre not going to have oneâ¦Weâre basically having a low-drama moment here because weâve taken the sting out of the room.â
Flintâs congressman, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), praised the agreement as âa step forward to ensuring that Flint families get the resources they need to recover from this crisis.”
The rapid-fire developments on Wednesday seem to resolve longstanding skepticism from Senate Democrats about whether the Republican-led House would actually advance Flint aid.
âThis should be pretty easy. Why canât they just say theyâll do it?â Reid had said earlier in the day, referring to Republicans. âThis is not deficit spending. â¦ Itâs Michigan money thatâs going to be used in a different way. The money is already there.â
Lawmakers also included money in the CR to help clean up damage done by deadly floods in Louisiana, a key priority for the GOP. Democrats initially balked at adding the money to the CR if it didn’t also cover Flint.
Earlier, senior Republicans had noted that procedurally, there would have to be a roll call to strip out the flood aid â a vote that could be politically problematic. And some Democrats feared it would look bad to block a bill that would help people caught up in a natural disaster.
Others suggested the inclusion of Louisiana funds could become an issue. âYesterday it was the CR was set in stone and we were going to do Flint in WRDA and Louisiana would find a vehicle. Now it looks like, if the rumors are true, Louisiana is back in the front seat,â Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said after a House Democratic leadership meeting Wednesday morning. âThatâs not going to raise the confidence levels for Democrats in the House.”
Republicans pressured them to drop their concerns.
“I donât know why people would object to [keeping flood aid], but I have read that for example, Sen. [Debbie] Stabenow [D-Mich.] had expressed some concerns,â Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Wednesday morning. âHer concerns about Flint are being addressed and I hope she doesnât get in the way of concerns that other people have whoâve experienced some flooding.â
The deal between Pelosi and Ryan came after Reid and other Senate Democrats laid down a hard line on Flint spending over the last several days. In fact, Democrats had already scored several wins in the CR, including Zika funding that also allows Planned Parenthood to receive money combating the mosquito-borne virus.
McConnell, Pelosi and Ryan started working on a deal shortly after McConnellâs previous proposal, which did not include Flint funding, failed to muster enough votes to advance Tuesday.
Time was running short, with leaders having just two more days to pass their deal. Government funding runs out Sept. 30. Plus, lawmakers want to return to their districts to campaign for their seats.
Conservatives, meanwhile, were already squawking about the agreement. Heritage Actionâs Dan Holler blasted the deal saying âHouse Republicans accept being jammed and essentially sit on the side linesâ and Hill Republicans ânegotiate behind closed doors with Democrats, essentially giving them what they want.â
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.