US Senate passes bill to avert government shutdown

Hours before start of new fiscal year, US Senate approves government spending bill in attempt to avoid government shutdown prior to upcoming elections in 2016

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

The Capitol Dome, covered with scaffolding is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 30, 2015

Updated Oct 1, 2015

The US Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to avert a government shutdown, sending the measure to the House of Representatives just hours before funding for federal agencies runs out at midnight.

Passed by a 78-20 vote, the bill would keep federal agencies funded at current levels through December 11. It does not include a controversial provision to cut off money to Planned Parenthood that many conservative Republicans had demanded.

The funding bill aims to give congressional negotiators and President Barack Obama about 10 weeks to work out a longer-term budget deal that lasts at least through the new fiscal year ending September 30, 2016.

But first, the House needs to approve the measure in time for Obama to sign it into law before a midnight deadline. Timing for that vote was still uncertain but House Republican aides said they were aiming for an afternoon vote.

The House Rules Committee was expected to consider whether any allow amendments to the funding bill at a meeting late Wednesday morning.

Conservative Republicans were making a last-ditch effort to amend the Senate funding measure to restore a controversial provision that would cut off all federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

Many hard-line conservatives want to punish Planned Parenthood because of allegations that the women's healthcare organization improperly sold fetal tissue harvested from abortions.

Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing and the defunding provision was blocked by Senate Democrats, backed up by an Obama veto threat. It was stripped from the Senate measure passed on Wednesday morning.

The 172-member Republican Study Committee's proposed amendment also would prohibit Obama from lifting anti-nuclear sanctions on Iran during the duration of the stopgap funding measure.