Senate approves temporary spending bill; House soon to vote

A temporary funding measure that would keep the government open past a midnight deadline has sailed through the Senate and should shortly make its way through a badly divided House and on to President Barack Obama by Wednesday night.

The 78-20 tally represented a vote of confidence for a pragmatic approach engineered by top GOP leaders determined to avoid a government shutdown.

The House is slated to approve the measure Wednesday afternoon, but GOP leaders will need to rely on Democratic votes to balance out opposition from tea party supporters who want to “defund” Planned Parenthood.

Congress has until 11:59 p.m. Sept. 30 to pass a budget. Without a funding plan on the first day of the fiscal year — Oct. 1 — the government shuts down.

The measure would keep federal agencies funded at 2015 levels and includes money for Planned Parenthood.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, McConnell said he was “optimistic it will pass.”

The Associated Press reported McConnell, outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Barack Obama had talked last week and expected further discussion on budget negotiation.

“The president and Speaker Boehner and I spoke about getting started on the discussions last week, and I would expect them to start very soon,” McConnell said to reporters, according to  AP.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the setup for another deadline in December is “a holiday gift for Americans — the prospect of shutting down the government, again.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters he was “glad we have a path to avoid [a shutdown] on a temporary basis, but this government-by-crisis is no way to run a country.”

The White House has also voiced its support for the stopgap, issuing a statement on Monday calling it a “short-term bridge.”

“The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress on FY 2016 appropriations legislation for the full year that reverses sequestration, preserves funding for critical national priorities, protects national security, and makes investments to maintain economic growth and job creation for years to come,” the White House said in a statement.

Voting to fund the government comes just days after Boehner stunned Capitol Hill with his announcement that he would be resigning from Congress at the end of October.

The 16-day government shutdown triggered in 2013 forced federal employees to miss millions of days of work, and agencies lost millions of dollars in revenue.

In its post-shutdown analysis from 2013, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that federal workers missed 6.6 million days of work and cost more than $2.5 billion in lost productivity, and pay and benefits for employees. Overall, federal agencies furloughed roughly 850,000 employees per day in the early days of the 2013 shutdown — nearly 40 percent of the entire civilian federal workforce, OMB’s report stated.

This story based in part on wire reports.

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