WASHINGTON, September 17, 2014 (AFP) – US lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend funding for federal operations into December, likely preventing a repeat of last October’s disastrous government shutdown.
Faced with the need to act before fiscal year 2015 begins on October 1, members of the House of Representatives voted 319-108 to keep government funded at current levels until December 11.
The Senate takes up the measure Thursday, and despite deep differences between President Barack Obama’s Democrats and opposition Republicans over federal spending, senators are expected to pass the so-called continuing resolution.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – one of Obama’s chief adversaries in Congress – have bickered incessantly for the past year, but the leaders appeared united in their desire to see the resolution reach the president’s desk.
It is essentially a punt, as lawmakers – faced with mid-term congressional elections in early November – have failed to pass legislation laying out next year’s spending levels before fiscal year 2014 ends September 30.
Lawmakers have spoken repeatedly of the need to pass the 12 separate appropriations bills once Congress resumes its work after election day.
Number two House Democrat Steny Hoyer said he was grateful that Republicans, widely blamed for the 16-day shutdown last year, were not prepared to push the government to the brink.
“I think they’re making a wise decision,” Hoyer said on the House floor.
The White House budget office expressed its support, saying the Obama administration “appreciates that the House bill allows critical government functions to operate without interruption and avoids a damaging government shutdown.”
In addition to being a short-term funding fix, the continuing resolution also provides for $88 million in funding to address the Ebola epidemic in west Africa, re-authorizes the Export-Import Bank, and crucially provides Obama’s Pentagon with authorization to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels in order to battle Islamic State jihadists.