WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amidst leadership turmoil in the House, the Senate Monday advanced a bill to fund the government through December 11, setting the stage for final congressional passage before Wednesday’s deadline to avoid a shut down.
On a bipartisan vote of 77 to 19, the motion surpassed the 60 votes required.
The House is expected to take up and pass the bill as early as Tuesday. Approval in that chamber had been in doubt because a bloc of conservative Republicans was threatening to oust House Speaker John Boehner if he moved the spending bill over its inclusion of federal dollars for Planned Parenthood.
But the conservatives lost their leverage Friday with Boehner’s surprise announcement that he would retire in a few weeks instead of getting into a drawn out fight with his party’s right wing over broader budget and social issues.
The defunding Planned Parenthood provision could not get through the Senate — where Democrats have enough votes to block it — so Boehner had to accept it, even though some in his rank flank were willing to shut down the government over it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed the government funding stalemate on Democrats who had blocked the normal appropriations process because Republicans wanted to pour more money into defense instead of domestic programs.
“They pursued a deliberate strategy to force our country into another of their unnecessary crisis. This leaves the funding legislation before us as the only viable way forward in the short term,” McConnell said. “It does not represent my first, second, third or 23rd choice when it comes to funding the government.”
Passage of the stopgap bill buys lawmakers several weeks to cut deals on a longer government funding bill, a hike the debt ceiling, highway construction funding, renewal of the Export-Import Bank, and a smattering of tax provisions that are expiring. Boehner’s departure increases the uncertainty over whether Congress can reach a deal with the White House on those complex and politically challenging policy issues.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid pointed to that in remarks on the floor.
“The Republican House is in a sad state. Last week, the far right showed that it can depose a speaker, and has emerged more powerful than ever before. Members of the House will hold their leadership elections in the coming days, and I hope they elect sensible leaders,” he said.
Angry that the bill didn’t defund Planned Parenthood Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tried to table the funding bill after it was passed. But he couldn’t get another senator to “second” his motion so the effort failed immediately.
The GOP presidential candidate then gave a speech railing against Senate Republican leaders for “surrendering” in the finding fights against the White House and for losing touch with conservatives across the country. After Cruz spoke for his allotted time of one hour, he sought consent to continue his speech — as required by Senate rules — but none of his fellow senators obliged him and he left the floor.