The Senate passed a U.S. government spending plan hours before a shutdown deadline Wednesday as President Barack Obama’s administration sought to facilitate talks with congressional leaders on a longer-term budget deal.
The spending bill, passed 78-20, goes to the House where Speaker John Boehner promised a vote over objections from fellow Republicans who unsuccessfully sought to use it to defund Planned Parenthood. A House procedure will allow a vote later in the day, before government funding expires at midnight. The Obama administration supports the measure.
“I’m optimistic it will pass” in the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters Tuesday. Boehner has said he expects Democrats to help pass the spending bill, H.R. 719, which would finance the government through Dec. 11.
McConnell also said Tuesday that he, Boehner and Obama plan soon to begin discussions on a “topline” government spending limit for the next two fiscal years.
Obama spoke to Boehner and McConnell on Sept. 17 at the two leaders’ request, and reiterated his call for congressional Republicans to sit down with Democrats to work out a budget, an administration official said. The administration’s goals for a spending deal include longstanding requests: Ending spending caps, raising the debt ceiling and renewing the authorization for the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
The official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, didn’t say whether the administration was seeking to reach a two-year budget deal with Republican leaders. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has repeatedly said it’s up to Democrats and Republicans to determine the parameters of a long-term spending plan.
Earnest told reporters Wednesday the administration is seeking “conversations that prevent a government shutdown, and conversations that ensure that our national security and economic priorities are adequately funded.” He added, “Republicans have not succeeded and will not succeed in passing budget legislation strictly along party lines.”
Republican Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio said he’s optimistic that supporters of the Ex-Im Bank will have a chance to seek to revive its charter, which expired June 30, even though the House Financial Services Committee refused to attach reauthorization language to an unrelated bill. “I think you will see it happen,” Stivers said.
On the stopgap spending measure, McConnell and Boehner had said that although they too want to cancel federal funds for Planned Parenthood, they wouldn’t go along with conservative Republicans’ willingness to shut down the government over the issue. The dispute between Boehner and members of his Republican caucus led in part to his decision last week to resign from Congress at the end of October.
Boehner on Wednesday set an election to choose the next speaker for Oct. 8. The chamber’s second-ranking Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, is the frontrunner to replace Boehner.
Representative Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, one of about 30 Republican conservatives who had said they were prepared to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood, sent an e-mail to fellow Republicans on Monday complaining that the short-term spending measure was being “shoved down our throats at the eleventh hour.”
Mullin said Americans will remain “fed up” with government unless Republicans use the House leadership change to “hire leaders instead of promoting them based on longevity.”
House Republicans met Tuesday evening to discuss their priorities and leadership. Boehner ally Tom Cole of Oklahoma said as he departed that no date had been set for an election to replace the speaker and perhaps other top leaders. Asked what was being accomplished with the meeting, he said, “people will feel better when they leave.”
“It was everybody saying the right things but very few specifics,” Republican Peter King of New York told reporters after the session broke up. “It was candid and people talked to get it out of your system. It served a purpose. Anger was in there. There was a lot of anger from last week on all sides.”
New Shutdown Threat
A new shutdown threat could arise in December if conservatives again try to attach language defunding Planned Parenthood to a government funding measure.
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. Senate Democrats blocked an earlier measure that would defund the women’s reproductive health-care group.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told a House committee Tuesday that the organization follows the law in providing fetal tissue for research, and that claims based on undercover videos made by anti-abortion groups are “offensive and categorically untrue.” Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for Planned Parenthood.