US House passes budget deal, ending government shutdown

by Garry Watts February 10, 2018, 2:53
US House passes budget deal, ending government shutdown

The bill was approved by a wide margin in the Senate and it survived a rebellion of 67 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives thanks to the support of some Democrats.

President Donald Trump has signed the budget deal. That would end the shutdown.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the budget plan passed by the Senate a "true compromise".

Protecting "Dreamers" and DACA recipients has been center stage in the ongoing budget debates in Congress. Democrats have been using funding legislation for leverage on their immigration concerns.

Senate leaders are working to approve the measure Thursday and send it to the House for passage before the government begins to shut down at midnight.

The Senate is likely to vote to reopen the government in the wee hours Friday.

The 240-186 vote came in the pre-dawn hours, putting to bed a five-and-a-half hour federal freeze - the second such shutdown in three weeks.

Paul, a fiscal conservative from the state of Kentucky, said he could not allow a quick vote to take place because the proposed measure - which would fund the government for another six weeks - would also expand the USA deficit. Paul brushed off the pressure. "I didn't come up here to be liked", Paul said. The Senate eventually approved the bill, followed by the House, after that shutdown technically started.

But passage in the House was not assured amid opposition from some Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

A band of tea party Republicans swung against the legislation as well, repelled by its spiraling spending levels. Many lawmakers on both sides had issues with the deal as it was presented.

It also would increase the government's debt ceiling, preventing a first-ever default on USA obligations that looms in just a few weeks.

"Additionally, this bill increases the debt ceiling till March of 2019, which moves us away from crisis-to-crisis budgeting". A shutdown essentially cuts the federal workforce in half, with those dubbed non-essential not allowed to work.

Essential government functions will continue regardless.

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The Trump administration signaled it expected the shutdown to be short, calling it a "lapse".

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney issued the order at midnight, notifying federal agencies they should execute their contingency plans. Aides closed shop early in the night, with no comment on the display on the Hill. The president didn't tweet.

USA lawmakers will hope the shutdown remains brief.

Some Democrats, including minority leader Nancy Pelosi, also said they opposed the measure because it did not include a deal that would protect some 700,000 "Dreamers" - immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children - from deportation.

The measure clears a path for huge spending increases for both the Pentagon and domestic programs.

House Democratic leaders opposed the measure - arguing it should resolve the plight of Dreamers - but not with all their might. "She negotiated the deal, her team was in on it, she acknowledges it, she says they have wins in it and they were a 'no.' And at the end, her team broke". Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who often votes against spending bills, on board.

Ryan didn't immediately respond.

Mr Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said the overall budget bill that includes the stopgap measure would "loot the Treasury".

A single Republican senator late Thursday held up a bipartisan bill to keep the US government open hours before federal funds expired. "It also ensures funding for our other critical priorities, including rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure, tackling the opioids epidemic and taking care of our great veterans", Sanders said. Protection for the Dreamers under former President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, expires next month.

"If you're against president [Barack] Obama's deficits, but you're for the Republican deficits, isn't that the very definition of hypocrisy?" he asked, adding that he wanted his fellow legislators "to feel uncomfortable" over the impasse.

The spending deal would eliminate strict budget caps - set in 2011 to reduce the federal deficit - and pave the way for Congress to increase defense spending by $165 billion and hike domestic spending by $131 billion over the next two years. There is also $16bn to renew a slew of expired tax breaks that Congress seems unable to kill. The exchange you just watched was me asking to have a 15 minute vote.

While the USA government's authority to spend some money would expire at midnight, there were not likely to be many clear immediate effects. But many Democrats backed the spending measure without that assurance.

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