By Bonnie K. Goodman
A day after Senate Democrats refused to pass a short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown; Congress passed a bill that will fund the government until December. On Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, the Senate passed a continuing resolution with a vote of 76 to 26. The House followed suit and passed the bill 342 to 85 late in the evening. Congress is adjourning for the campaign recess, and they will not return until after the election.
The continuing resolution Congress passed funds the government for 10-weeks until Dec. 9. The White House intends to sign the spending bill, although they expressed “disappointment” it did not provide a “provision” to allow Export-Import Bank to “make transactions” involving more than $10 million.
The House passed the bill with support from all but 10 Democrats, and only 75 Republicans opposed it. Congress’ bill also includes an “emergency aid package” of $1.1 billion primarily to fight the Zika virus, but also a half a billion for recent floodings in Louisiana, West Virginia, and Maryland. The bill has full-year funding only the military and veterans, with the remaining allocations to be determined in the lame-duck session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drafted the “bipartisan spending bill,” which Republicans found catered too much to the Democrats.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Senate Democrats balked at the spending bill because it did not provide any aid for the Flint, Michigan “drinking water crisis,” where high levels of lead were found in the drinking water. Democrats voted not to let the bill advance.
The Senate voted 45 to 55 in a procedural with almost all the Democrats voting against the bill and 12 Republicans joining them. Additionally, McConnell voted against the bill to ensure the spending bill could put to the vote again. Democrats were upset the bill included relief for floods but not Flint’s water crisis.
Afterward, McConnell said he was open to dropping funds for flood victims because he had not planned to add funding for Flint. The Senate Majority Leader said, “We keep hearing their position is ‘no Flint, no floods.’ Well, that’s certainly an option worth discussing.” Both McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-WI were adamant that funding for Flint had to be included in Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), not the continuing resolution spending bill.
In the next 24 hours, Speaker Ryan, R-WI and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, negotiated a resolution to the conflict, whereas $170 million for Flint would be added to a “separate water resources bill,” and Democrats would have vote for the spending bill. Ryan was intent on making sure that a spending bill passes. Speaking on Wednesday, morning at the Economic Club of Washington D.C., Ryan clarified, “We decided we don’t want to create brinksmanship. That doesn’t do anybody any good.”
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) who represents Flint in his Congressional district met with Ryan over the wording of the Flint amendment, and then Kildee finalized the wording with Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA arranged the collaboration.
President Barack Obama until, however, will sign the water resource bill, after the election, still upsetting Senate Democrats although they voted to keep the government running. The Waterways bill, the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) passed in the House late Wednesday evening with a vote of 399 to 25. The bill provides $170 million in aid to Flint. The Senate-passed version of the bill provided $220 million in aid because unlike the House bill it provisions to assist other communities dealing with lead in their drinking water.