Congress passes, sends to Trump bill to avoid government shutdown

Lights shine inside the U.S. Capitol Building.
(AP Photo/J. David Ake)

The U.S. Congress voted early on Friday to approve a $1.3-trillion government funding bill with large increases in military and non-defense spending, sending it to President Donald Trump, who was expected to sign it into law.

With Trump's signature, the bill will avert a threatened government shutdown and keep federal agencies funded until Sept. 30, ending for now Washington's constant budget squabbles and letting lawmakers focus on getting reelected in November.

The Senate voted 65-32 for the bill, several hours after the House of Representatives passed it 256-167 on Thursday.

The votes capped a long struggle by Congress, which was supposed to have approved the government funding by last Oct. 1.

Since then, several stop-gap spending bills have kept the government open, except for two brief shutdowns earlier this year when Congress deadlocked and funding expired.

Despite Republican leaders urging passage of the bill, some Republicans voted no. Their party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, but has struggled since taking power in January 2017 to approve budget legislation.

Republican Senator Rand Paul spent part of Thursday on social network Twitter criticizing what he said was unnecessary spending in the sprawling bill.

"Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses - and parties. Here’s the 2,232 page, $1.3 trillion, budget-busting Omnibus spending bill," Paul declared in one message.

He decried a "monstrous bill" teeming with money for decades-old programs. His last-minute objections played a key role in delaying the Senate's vote until the dead of night.

On Thursday, Representative Mark Meadows, who heads the far-right Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, said, "This omnibus doesn’t just forget the promises we made to voters - it flatly rejects them."

He added, "This is not the limited government conservatism our voters demand."

Not all of the opposition, however, was over fiscal policy.

Before he would let the voting proceed, Republican Senator James Risch insisted on a promise that a wilderness area in his home state of Idaho would not be named after the late former Governor Cecil Andrus, a Democrat.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Clarence Fernandez)