US govt narrowly averts shutdown

WASHINGTON • Congress and President Barack Obama steered the United States government clear of a shutdown on Wednesday hours before a midnight deadline, approving temporary federal spending that does not defund a women's healthcare provider as Republicans hoped.

The Senate and House acted pragmatically to fund the government at current levels beyond the start of the new fiscal year yesterday, and Mr Obama signed the measure into law late on Wednesday.

The stop-gap runs only through Dec 11, setting up a new potential fiscal clash just 10 weeks from now. But it avoids a repeat of 2013, when lawmakers divided over spending allowed the government to skid into a damaging 16-day shutdown.

Mr Obama hailed the congressional action.

"It looks like the Republicans will just barely avoid shutting down the government for the second time in two years," he told state Democrats at the White House.

House Republican Charlie Dent noted it would be "utterly reckless" to trigger a spending crisis over Planned Parenthood.

The spending includes funding for the women's healthcare and abortion provider long targeted by Republicans.

Wednesday's clean Bill passed 78 votes to 20 in the Senate with more than half the chamber's Republicans voting in favour. No Democrats voted against it.

The measure later cleared the House with bipartisan support, 277 to 151.

With the threat of shutdown defused, Republican leaders in Congress are turning towards talks with Mr Obama over a long-term Budget agreement for the remainder of fiscal year 2016, and potentially beyond.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'US govt narrowly averts shutdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe