Congress approves temporary spending bill, averting partial gov’t shutdown

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Just hours before a midnight deadline, a bitterly divided Congress approved a stopgap spending bill Wednesday to keep the federal government open — but with no assurance there won’t be yet another shutdown showdown in December.

Democrats helped beleaguered House Republican leaders pass the measure by 277-151 — a lopsided vote shrouding deep disagreements within the GOP — after the Senate approved it by a 78-20 tally earlier in the day. The votes sent the bill to President Obama for his signature.

Approval of such stopgap measures used to be routine, but debate this year exposed acrimonious divisions between pragmatic Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner and more junior lawmakers in the party’s tea party wing who are less inclined to compromise. The tea partyers had demanded that the must-pass measure be used to punish Planned Parenthood, stripping it of federal money because of its practice of supplying tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research.

House Republicans opposed the measure by a clear margin, but Democratic support was unanimous.

The legislation finances the government through Dec. 11, providing 10 weeks to negotiate a more wide-ranging budget deal that would carry past the 2016 presidential election. But the talks promise to be difficult, and success is not assured.

“Today was a win for the Washington cartel, and another setback for the American people,” said Rep. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is using combat with Washington GOP leaders to help define his presidential campaign. “Republican leadership chose to abandon its constitutional power of the purse and to fund 100 percent of President Obama’s failed agenda.”

Support from Democrats also helped power the measure through the Senate, all of the opposition coming from conservative Republicans.

“It is to my great dismay that we are at this point again, requiring a temporary Band-Aid to buy us time to do our duty,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, during House debate.

“We have to stop devastating sequester cuts from hitting our military and middle class, even the Republican leader agrees,” said top Senate Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada.

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