Senate averts government shutdown

Rachel Rose Hartman

The Senate on Monday night agreed to a plan to extend government funding, averting a government shutdown at the end of this week.

Senators, who kept the public on edge last week when they failed to reach a compromise, voted Monday night 79-12 in favor of a resolution that would keep agencies open through Nov. 18. The bill included compromises on both sides-- Democrats agreed to lower disaster relief funds, and Republicans agreed to fewer spending cuts.

Democrats hailed the compromise as a victory, on the basis of the restored disaster funding. Republicans countered those claims with accusations that Democrats were "playing politics" by putting disaster aid at the center of the debate over the bill. GOP lawmakers also called for immediate spending offsets to accommodate the increased disaster spending in the federal budget.

"Tonight, we rejected the idea that we should be forced to choose between American jobs and disaster relief, and forged an agreement that will provide suffering Americans from Missouri to Vermont the resources they need to piece their lives back together," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement.

"This is a compromise that is a reasonable way to keep the government operational,'' Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told reporters.

Republicans touted the resolution as a win as well, citing the spending cuts they managed to include in the final legislation.

Members of Congress faced significant pressure to reach a compromise and have it signed into law by Sept. 26, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated it would run out of funds Monday. But FEMA announced Monday prior to the vote that the agency would be able to last through the end of this week on its existing funding, which freed up a bit more time for Congress to strike an accord to keep the government funded.

In addition to endorsing the extension of government spending through Nov. 18, the Senate approved a resolution that keeps the government open through next Tuesday. The House is expected to approve that shorter-term extension this week.