Congress prevents government shutdown, House passes disaster aid bill

By Allen Cone and Daniel Uria  |  Updated Dec. 21, 2017 at 8:19 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter
1 of 2
| License Photo

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Congress passed a short-term spending bill Thursday to prevent a government shutdown until at least Jan. 19.

The bill passed by a vote of 231 to 188 and was later approved by the Senate before a stop-funding bill approved earlier this month was scheduled to expire on Friday.

In addition to keeping the government open, the bill extended funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program through March and includes a three-week extension of a government surveillance program.

The House also passed a passed an $81 billion disaster aid bill in response to the hurricanes and wildfires throughout the year by a vote of 251 to 169. The Senate isn't expected to vote on the bill until after the new year.

Democrats opposed the spending bill because they want other matters addressed, including renewed funding for the Children's Health Insurance program and legal protection for Dreamers, who that are part of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

"What we have said to them [Republicans], everything we have suggested to you is bipartisan," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calfornia said at a news conference Thursday.

The funding measure recieved additional Republican support.

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told reporters Thursday he will vote for a another short-term bill. He originally had demanded that the Pentagon receive a full-year spending bill with added resources.

"I am pretty optimistic that we will be able to have an agreement in January that starts the rebuilding process of the military, but we've got to quit using the military as a political pawn," said Thornberry, who conferred with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The votes come one day after the House and Senate approved their major tax overhaul.

The new funding bill includes nearly $3 billion in funding for the CHIP, which expired in September. It provides medical care for 9 million children whose parents don't qualify for Medicaid and can't afford insurance.

Almost two-thirds of states said they will run out of money by March unless Congress provides more funding.

Democrats have opposed an earlier bill that provided five years of funding because money was taken from another fund to pay for children's inoculations and treatment for lead poisoning.

"It was cannibalizing children's healthcare in order to pay for another version of children's healthcare," Pelosi said.

Pelosi also urged her colleagues in a letter to vote against a short-term continuing resolution because they want an extension or permanent legislative version of DACA.

Republicans rejected a plea from Pelosi at a House Rules Committee meeting Thursday morning to include the legal protections for Dreamers in the short-term bill. Instead, House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said they will deal with DACA next year.

President Donald Trump said he is counting on Republicans now to ensure the government avoids a shutdown.

"House Democrats want a SHUTDOWN for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, Tax Cuts. House Republicans, don't let this happen. Pass the C.R. TODAY and keep our Government OPEN!," he posted on Twitter.

Once the House passes legislation on a simple majority, the Senate needs 60 votes for approval. It then goes to Trump for his signature.

The Republicans have 52 members in Congress and Sen. John McCain is in Arizona recuperating from chemotherapy to treat brain cancer.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories