WASHINGTON – Congress averted another potential government shutdown after the House passed a continuing resolution that keeps the federal government funded through Nov. 18.
The measure passed on a bipartisan basis with 352 votes in favor and 66 opposed. Of Minnesota’s eight-person House delegation, only DFL Rep. Keith Ellison voted against the measure. Continuing her long absence from the House floor, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann did not vote and continued to campaign for the White House in Iowa today.
Today’s vote was the latest in a series of budget skirmishes, albeit the least contentious one so far, between Congressional Republicans and Democrats that have lasted all year.
Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown last spring after a protracted struggle over spending levels for the 2011 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. And this summer, the federal government came within days of defaulting on its debt after House Republicans staged a confrontation with the Obama Administration and Senate Democrats over raising the government’s borrowing limit.
The short-term funding measure passed today cuts government spending by 1.5 percent over the next six weeks to keep funding levels in line with an agreement brokered in August as part of the bipartisan debt ceiling deal.
Ellison’s office did not issue a statement about his vote, but the Minneapolis congressman has also voted against previous stopgap funding measures this Congress because he has opposed the spending cuts in those bills that the Republican House majority has insisted on.
UPDATE: In a statement, Ellison said he voted against the bill because “it puts thousands more Americans out of work at time when unemployment is above 9 percent. Republicans continue to push an agenda that puts more Americans out of work.” Ellison and other members of the House Democrats’ progressive caucus plan to hold a rally in front of the Capitol on Wednesday to demand Congress focus on creating jobs.
While today’s measure passed by a wide margin, it too was marked by conflict and disagreement over whether it was appropriate to break with long-standing congressional precedent and make offsetting budget cuts to pay for emergency disaster aid.
Congress now turns its attention to completing work on appropriations for the remainder of this fiscal year. Those efforts are also likely to be fraught with conflict between the parties with the House Republican caucus adding a series of policy riders to the spending bills, such as forbidding chapters of Planned Parenthood that receive federal funds to offer abortions, that Democrats are sure to object to.