Congress passes bill to avert government shutdown

Updated

With just hours to spare, Congress approved a funding bill that will prevent a government shutdown—at least until December. President Obama signed the legislation, the White House said late Wednesday.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon passed a short-term spending plan by a 277-151 vote margin. The bill, however, only keeps the government funded until Dec. 11, around the time when the Treasury Department is expected to hit the debt ceiling and run out of borrowing authority. But the legislation does include funding for Planned Parenthood, which has been a major source of contention for some lawmakers on the right.

RELATED: Planned Parenthood president grilled on Capitol Hill

Earlier in the day, the Senate passed the bill by a 78-20 vote. All Democrats voted in favor of it, while GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio – who are running for president – notably missed the vote. The Republican candidates who voted “no” included Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

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The vote comes just days after House Speaker John Boehner made the surprise announcement that he would be stepping down. Some argued that his resignation decreased the odds of a shutdown: The Ohio congressman had been under intense pressure from party members who threatened to give him the boot if he presented any legislation to fund the government without a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. But without the threat of being kicked out looming, Boehner was able to push through the latest bill through the House with the help of Democrats.

All of the House Democrats voted in favor of legislation, in addition to 91 Republicans. That includes Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is running for House speaker and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who wants to be majority leader. 

Initially, some Republicans’ attempts to strip funds from Planned Parenthood threatened to lead to a shutdown. But after Senate Democrats rejected the effort last week and it became clear the issue was a non-starter, GOP leaders decided to take out the measure. 

Still, some – including Cruz – did not want to give up the fight this week to defund Planned Parenthood, even if it meant a government shutdown. His attempts seemed ill-fated as of Monday evening, however. After an earlier procedural vote, which passed by an overwhelming 77-19, Cruz attempted to make a statement and get a courtesy roll-call vote, but other Republicans reportedly shouted “no” and the move was overruled by Republican leadership.

RELATED: Kevin McCarthy announces run for speaker of the House

Cruz is well-known for leading an unsuccessful 2013 fight over Obamacare that triggered an unpopular 16-day government shutdown.

The senator’s actions on Monday night prompted Paul, who is also making a bid for the White House, to argue that Cruz is “done for” in the Senate.

“Ted has chosen to make this really personal and chosen to call people dishonest in leadership and call them names, which really goes against the decorum and also against the rules of the Senate. And as a consequence, he can’t get anything done legislatively,” he told Fox News Radio.

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The next budget showdown will take place in mid-December and will be a major test for the new House speaker. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that he is trying to hammer out a two-year budget deal (alongside Boehner before he leaves) with the White House. But those talks could throw a curve ball at the next House speaker, who may also come under pressure to reject negotiations with the Democrats. 

In addition, the fight over federal funding for Planned Parenthood doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. The organization has faced criticism following the release of controversial, secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the donation of fetal tissue for research, and it has since been a hot talking point on the campaign trail for Republican presidential candidates.

The organization’s president, Cecile Richards, was grilled by Congress on Tuesday. The House is also considering taking a vote to create a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood. And, in a move to appease conservatives, House GOPers on Wednesday passed a separate measure known as an “enrollment correction,” by a 241-185 vote which would defund the organization. The move is largely being seen a political theater, however, as the measure now has to go back to the Senate, where there are no plans to take it up. 

Speaking about Congress narrowly averting the shutdown, President Obama said on Wednesday, “The good news is, it looks like the Republicans will just barely avoid shutting down the government - for the second time in two years, that’s a somewhat low bar - but we should celebrate where we can.” He added, “The bad news is it looks like Republicans just barely avoided shutting down government again for the second time in two years.” 

Budget, Congress, Government Shutdowns and Ted Cruz

Congress passes bill to avert government shutdown

Updated