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Senate Casts Final Vote of Session to Avoid Shutdown

by Countable | 12.10.16

Late Friday night, less than an hour before the federal government was due to run out of money, the Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through April 28 and avoid a shutdown before passing a water infrastructure bill with its final vote of the 114th Congress.

Senate Democrats had been intent on blocking the pair of bills in hopes of getting a long-term reauthorization of healthcare for miners and their families in the stopgap funding bill, and better protection for endangered fish in the water projects bill. But with the House having departed the nation’s capital Thursday after passing both bills — and therefore unavailable to OK changes made by the Senate — Democrats were forced to relent.

Democrats agreed to hold a cloture vote (basically a test vote to ensure a bill has sufficient support) on the CR at about 10 p.m. EST despite having the ability to delay it procedurally until 1 a.m., which technically would’ve caused a shutdown at 11:59:59 p.m. Sixty-one Senators voted for cloture, exceeding the needed 60, and the CR was passed on a 63-36 vote an hour later with 23 Democrats and 13 Republicans opposed. President Obama signed the bill into law early Saturday morning, so there was technically a brief lapse in funding for the government, but federal agencies’ operations weren’t affected.

With a shutdown averted and the first order of business taken care of, the Senate turned to the water infrastructure bill that authorized funding provided in the CR to help Flint, Michigan address its lead-tainted drinking water system. Despite the misgivings of Democrats, who argued that drought relief measures in California would jeopardize endangered fish and that "Buy American" provisions should re-inserted into the bill to ensure U.S. steel is used in water infrastructure projects, it passed on a bipartisan 78-21 vote after 1 a.m.

The passage of the water bill marked the final vote in the Senate for the 114th Congress, though the Senate will be in a pro forma session for seven days between now and when the 115th Congress convenes in January to prevent President Obama from making recess appointments.

You can read about the CR to fund the government through April 28 here, and the water infrastructure bill here.

— Eric Revell

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Countable

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