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.
With this Republican-led Congress, the bar has been lowered for what constitutes "successful governing," but there's no reason anyone should see yesterday's developments as a meaningful accomplishment. As recently as last week, the odds of another GOP-imposed shutdown were quite high, and lawmakers managed to avoid a disaster with mere hours to spare.
The only thing that prevented a shutdown in this case was the unexpected resignation of Congress' most powerful member -- the one whose members were prepared to ignore his pleas.
In case it's not obvious, 21st-century superpowers aren't supposed to operate this way.
But before we turn our attention to December, when the threat of a shutdown will be real once more, last night's House vote is worth considering in detail. At first blush, the outcome appears one-sided -- the stop-gap spending measure needed 218 votes to pass, and it ended up with 277.
What matters, however, is how those 277 votes came together -- because under the rules Republicans usually play by, this bill shouldn't have even reached the floor.