US House passes spending bill, ending brief government shutdown | Americas | North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 09.02.2018

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US House passes spending bill, ending brief government shutdown

The US government shutdown has ended after the House voted to pass a stopgap spending measure. The Senate's failure to pass the bill before the stroke of midnight had led to a temporary freeze of federal funds.

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Rand Paul holds up Senate budget vote

The US House of Representatives voted 240-186 in favor of a two-year budget deal, ending a government shutdown that started in the early hours of Friday morning and concluded within six hours.

The government shut down for the second time in 2018, after Republican Senator Rand Paul held up voting on the spending bill and forced Congress to miss its midnight deadline on a new federal funding structure.

Paul, a fiscal conservative from the state of Kentucky, said he could not allow a quick vote to take place because the proposed measure — which would fund the government for another six weeks — would also expand the US deficit. "I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama's trillion-dollar deficits," he said. "Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits."

"I can't... in good faith just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. Really, who is to blame? Both parties."

Senate officials subsequently held a vote at 1 a.m. local time (0600 UTC) to approve the budget bill by 71 votes to 28, passing it on to the House of Representatives for a vote in the early hours. 

Paul's move to delay the vote drew the ire of Democrats and fellow Republicans, who accused the senator of wasting time to draw attention to himself. Democratic Representative Nita Lowey accused GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate of turning the budget process into "an embarrassing spectacle, running from one crisis directly into the next."

After passing through the House, the spending bill was sent to US President Donald Trump, who tweeted that he had signed it into law, adding that "we love and need our military."

Deficit discontent

Democratic and Republican Senate leaders cobbled together the budget deal on Wednesday. It would raise military and domestic spending by nearly $300 billion (€250 billion) over two years.

The measure did not include any spending cuts or new tax revenues. The absence of any offsetting measures, combined with far-reaching tax cuts passed at the end of 2017, would force the US to finance the increased spending through debt.

To permit the spending, the deal would also raise the limit on how much debt the government can acquire until March 2019. Total US debt currently stands at more than $20 trillion. The sweeping tax overhaul bill that Trump and Republicans approved in December is estimated to add another $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years.

House Republicans, Democrats unhappy

The Senate had been expected to pass the budget deal on Thursday, allowing first the House of Representatives and then President Trump to follow suit.

But passage in the House was not assured amid opposition from some Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Members of the "Freedom Caucus" — a group of fiscally conservative House Republicans — announced they would oppose the measure, citing the projected increase in the government deficit.

Some Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also said they opposed the measure because it did not include a deal that would protect some 700,000 "Dreamers" — immigrants brought to the US illegally as children — from deportation. Trump has vowed to end the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, by March 5.

Read more: Opinion: Donald Trump's shameful move to end DACA

Shutdown drama

The government was forced to shut down for three days in mid-January after the Senate failed to pass a stopgap budget amid Democratic demands for a deal to protect "Dreamers."

Democrats abandoned their opposition after three days, allowing the Senate and House to pass a temporary spending bill on January 23.

dm, amp/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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