Congress has passed legislation that will avert a government shutdown at midnight. On Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 30, 2015 both the House and the Senate passed a short-term spending bill, a continuing resolution that will fund the government until Dec. 11. Earlier in the afternoon, the Senate passed the clean spending bill with a vote of 78 to 20, while later in the afternoon the House of Representatives followed suit passing the bill with a vote of 277 to 151. President Barack Obama will quickly sign the bill to ensure the government is kept funded for the new fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1.
The Senate vote was mostly a bipartisan move, but the 20 votes in opposition all came from Republicans. The House vote passed with the help of all the House Democrats, with most Republicans voting against the bill. Conservative Republicans especially those belonging to the GOP Freedom Caucus voted against the bill because the clean bill did not strip funding for Planned Parenthood. Funding the women’s health organization was not such an issue for Senate Republicans who were more willing to compromise. The continuing resolution continues spending at current limits.
The votes were divided by those seeking House leadership positions. The vote will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 8. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the “favorite to succeed” Boehner and GOP Whip Steve Scalise (La.), who hopes to the new majority leader both voted with the outgoing speaker to pass the bill. While Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) McCarthy’s opponent and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) Scalise’s opponent voted against the bill.
Anti-abortion groups made undercover videos at Planned Parenthood the videos surfaced this summer showing the reproductive health organization taking the fetal tissue and organs from abortions performed at the clinics and selling them for a profit. The organization claims the videos were “heavily edited” and that the women voluntarily donated the fetal tissue to be used for “medical research. The House also voted on a separate bill to defund Planned Parenthood, which passed with a vote of 241 to 185, the Senate does not plan to vote on the bill.
The women’s health organization became a major contention issue that nearly forced a government shutdown, but did force Speaker of the House John Boehner to announce his resignation for Oct. 30. Republicans belonging to the freedom Caucus threatened to shut down the government or force a non-confidence vote on Boehner if he gained Democratic support to pass a clean bill. Boehner decided to what was best for the country. In a post resignation interview on CBS’ Face the Nation on Boehner decried the conservative faction critics as “false prophets” “who whip people into a frenzy believing that they can accomplish things that they know – they know! – are never gonna happen.”
The bill’s passage does not solve the greater problem of a long-term budget for the rest of 2016 fiscal year and Congressional leaders acknowledged the battle still ahead. After the vote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. commented, “The bill before us would keep the government open and allow time for cooler heads to prevail.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. was not as pleased looking towards the next shutdown threat, “That means within the coming weeks we will again be negotiating with Republicans to avoid another shutdown. Our constituents don’t want every simple legislative task to turn into a doomsday clock.”
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. also was concerned about the ability to come to a budget agreement funding the government for the whole year. Pelosi stated, “As we go forward, we’ll have some difficult choices to make. Let us take heed of the words of Pope Francis, who urged us to work together for the good of the people.”
Boehner in his CBS interview said he wants to ensure a budget agreement before his departure, saying, “I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn. I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there.” President Obama saw this vote still as a minor victory telling Democrats at the White House, “That’s a somewhat low bar, but we should celebrate where we can.”
Republican leaders McConnell and Boehner both plan to meet with Obama to discuss the budgets for 2016 and 2017. McConnell is concerned about coming to an agreement before the speaker leaves, which would be simpler for all parties. McConnell said, “How much of that could come together before Speaker Boehner leaves, I have no earthly idea. But we have a number of different things that need to be addressed, and the deadline is December the 11th.”
At the heart of the debate breaking existing budget caps, Republicans want an increase in defense spending, Democratic want to increase domestic programs spending, and conservatives do not want to increase spending at all. A budget agreement now will ensure there is no threat of another government shutdown in September 2016, it would also be a major victory for Obama before his term ends. The last government shutdown was in 2013 was over funding Obamacare and lasted 16 days.