WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled US Congress on Thursday passed a short-term funding bill to keep the federal government running for four more weeks, averting a looming shutdown.
Members of the House of Representatives voted 231-188 for the bill and the Senate followed with a 66 to 32 vote.
The temporary funding extension -- which lasts until January 19 – gives more time to lawmakers from both parties to reach an agreement on funding for the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year, which ends September 30.
Opposition Democrats had the numbers to block the Republican bill in the Senate, theoretically giving them the ability to leverage concessions.
Some Democratic senators opposed the measure because it did not address the fate of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children -- known as “Dreamers” -- whose status has been thrown into doubt by President Donald Trump.
But the fact that the Senate majority leader has agreed to put a bill on the status of those immigrants on the floor in January may have encouraged Democrats not to stand in the way of the funding measure.
In the House, some Republicans had threatened to vote “no” on the temporary funding bill because it does not fund the Department of Defense for the entire year.
Earlier in the day, Trump accused Democrats of trying to block the bill in order to close down the federal government -- something that did not in the end occur.
“House Democrats want a SHUTDOWN for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, Tax Cuts. House Republicans, don’t let this happen,” he tweeted.
Contentions issues unresolved
“Pass the (bill) TODAY and keep our Government OPEN!"
While a government shutdown has been averted, there has been no grand compromise on some of the most contentious issues facing the country, such as immigration and health care.
Democrats and some Republicans favor giving “Dreamers” legal status, but most Republicans, along with the White House, want the minority party to accept tougher border security measures in exchange for extending that protection.
Lawmakers are also discussing bills to stabilize the health care markets created under former president Barack Obama’s “Obamacare” reforms, which have come under attack from the Trump administration and the Republican majority.
Additionally, there is the issue of funding the government for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year.
But the bill adopted on Thursday does contain some important short-term measures.
It unlocks hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new missile base in Alaska, and to repair to US Navy ships damaged in recent accidents.
A public health insurance program for 8.9 million children is reauthorized until March 31, which will prevent a lapse in coverage.
And a law that allows US intel agencies to spy on internet users abroad, including on platforms like Facebook and Skype that was due to expire at year’s end has been extended until January 19.
In a separate measure, the House approved $81 billion in funding on Thursday for states and territories devastated by hurricanes and wildfires this summer and fall.
The Senate is to vote on the assistance once Congress reconvenes in January. — AFP