US Congress passes spending bill, avoiding shutdown

The US Capitol building in Washington, DC, the seat of the United States Congress (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

Washington (AFP) - The US Congress passed a spending bill late Wednesday and staved off a government shutdown, after reaching agreement on funding for a tainted water crisis in Flint, Michigan that had bedeviled earlier proposals.

The fiscal year ends on September 30. Had Congress failed to pass a bill approving federal spending -- or in this case, extending existing spending levels until December 9 -- by midnight Friday, some government offices and operations could have been forced to close.

"In addition to keeping the government open, this bill provides funding to train and equip our military, and improve care for our veterans. It also provides needed resources to fight the spread of the Zika virus in the United States and Puerto Rico," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.

"I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for getting this responsible legislation done and urge the president to sign it into law."

The bill passed the Senate 72-26 and then the House 342-85.

It provides $1.1 billion for efforts to fight the Zika virus, and $500 million for disaster recovery in flood-hit Louisiana and other states.

Lawmakers had been split on how to fund the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the drinking water is contaminated with lead.

Several Democrats voted against an earlier bill apparently because it provided money for Louisiana emergency flood relief without providing any infrastructure funding for Flint.

The impasse was broken after leaders from both parties agreed to provide funding for Flint in a separate water infrastructure bill, US media reported.

With Republicans in control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, a government shutdown could have dented the party's image just as Americans prepare to choose between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump in the November 8 presidential election.

The spending bill's passage allows lawmakers to return home to campaign in the final stretch before election day. Congress is not scheduled to return to Washington until the week after the election.