Senate Advances Spending Bill to Avoid U.S. Government Shutdown

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell returns to his office after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon on May 12, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate advanced a stopgap spending bill Monday that would avert a U.S. government shutdown this week while dropping demands by conservative Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood.

The measure, which moved forward on a 77-19 vote, would finance the government through Dec. 11. Current federal funding expires at the end of the day Wednesday.

The plan is “the only viable forward in the short term,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor. “It doesn’t represent my first, second or 23rd choice.”

McConnell stripped a Planned Parenthood defunding provision from an earlier measure that Democrats had blocked. House Speaker John Boehner, who announced Friday he’ll resign at the end of October, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that he’ll rely on Democratic votes to get the spending bill through his chamber.

McConnell said the Senate will take a final vote Tuesday or Wednesday on the spending bill, an amendment to H.R. 719. The House has set up a procedure allowing members to vote on the measure the same day it arrives from the Senate. The Obama administration backs the bill.

“We’re fortunate cooler heads are prevailing,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

Lawmakers have struggled to advance a spending plan as a group of House Republican conservatives insisted on using it to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. It was the latest dispute in years of conflicts between those lawmakers and Boehner, and was in part responsible for his decision to quit.

Temporary Victory

The Republican leaders’ agreement to ignore the conservative Republicans’ demands and vote on the spending bill this week will be only a temporary victory. It sets up another shutdown fight when the temporary spending bill is set to expire in December.

Conservatives have said they are outraged by undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing reimbursement for providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers.

The organization has said it doesn’t sell fetal tissue for profit, and instead receives the cost of collecting and delivering it. Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for Planned Parenthood.

Separate Bill

The plan backed by Boehner and McConnell would allow votes on a separate measure to block money for Planned Parenthood. Republicans would use a process that would keep Senate Democrats from blocking the bill, allowing it to be sent to President Barack Obama. Still, that effort wouldn’t succeed because Obama would veto such a bill and Senate Democrats could keep Congress from overriding his veto.

But proponents contend it would get such a measure to the president’s desk, forcing him to defend Planned Parenthood, the women’s reproductive health service.

“I share the frustration with this organization, but I think we ought to be honest with people about what we can actually achieve given the constitutional constraints we have,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and his party’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee, told CNN on Sept. 24.