With mere hours to spare the United States Senate passed a temporary extension of federal funding Saturday, alleviating fears of a government shutdown that could have been triggered as early as Sunday.
Republicans and Democrats were deeply divided over how to proceed funding the government through September, so the two sides agreed to a stop-gap measure that will keep the government funded through Wednesday of next week.
The funding extension was approved by a voice vote, which now goes to President Barack Obama to be signed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped to come to an agreement on a bill that would keep the government funded through June 2015. But these hopes collapsed when conservatives, upset that the bill did not de-fund President Obama's recent unilateral immigration action which shields millions from deportation, refused to pass a bill.
Cruz front and center again
Texas senator and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz is leading the opposition. It's the second time in a little over a year that Cruz has tried to halt one of Obama's initiatives by cutting off government funds.
In October 2013, Cruz was the primary figure in a 16-day-government shutdown in which he convinced Republicans to try to defund the Affordable Care Act, president Obama's signature healthcare law.
Cruz, along with senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, attempted to get permission to amend the funding bill to expressly forbid any funds from being allocated to carrying out Obama's immigration order.
Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized Cruz's tactics.
"This reminds me very much of the shutdown last year, where the strategy made absolutely no sense and was counterproductive," said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
Majority leader Reid accused Cruz, Lee and Sessions of holding the legislation "hostage."
Cruz meanwhile blamed Reid, calling him "an enabler for President Obama."
bw/cmk (AFP, Reuters)