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Congress votes to reopen government, passes budget deal

Andrew Taylor, Associated Press | 2/9/2018, 6:56 a.m.
The House moved swiftly early Friday to reopen the federal government and pass a $400 billion budget deal, overcoming opposition ...
The U.S. Capitol in Washington on Thursday night, Feb. 8, 2018. The Senate passed a budget deal and spending measure to reopen the shuttered federal government early Friday morning, sending the bill to the House. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

WASHINGTON — The House moved swiftly early Friday to reopen the federal government and pass a $400 billion budget deal, overcoming opposition from both liberal Democrats and tea party conservatives to endorse enormous spending increases despite looming trillion-dollar deficits.

The 240-186 vote came in the pre-dawn hours, putting to bed a five-and-a-half hour federal freeze that relatively few would notice. Many who did quickly labeled it a pointless, head-scratching episode. The shutdown was the second in three weeks.

The breakdown came largely in the Senate, when after a day of inaction, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky went rogue and stalled a vote in protest over his party's willingness to bust the budget. But Democrats also had their divisions and wrangling, largely with liberal upset the measure were not tied to any plans to assist the "Dreamer" immigrants.

Most Democrats opposed the measure, following the lead of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who tried and failed to use the moment to secure a promise for a separate vote on immigration. Up to the final minutes, it was not clear the bill would pass and many Democrats held their votes, allowing the tally to creep slowly and giving no indication which way it might fall.

House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Congress to avoid a "second needless shutdown in a matter of weeks — entirely needless."

There was far less drama in the Senate, where the measure sailed through by a 71-28 tally. President Donald Trump has promised to sign the bill into law.

The White House was forced to order the government shutdown shortly after midnight, but leaders quickly hustled to move before federal employees were due back at work, hoping to minimize the disruption. A shutdown essentially cuts the federal workforce in half, with those dubbed non-essential not allowed to work, while military and essential workers remain on the job.

The House vote ensured most employees would report for work as usual. Under federal law, passage of the measure is enough to call off the shutdown; Trump is expected to sign the measure as soon as he receives it.

The White House kept its distance from the quarreling on Capitol Hill. Trump did not tweet and aides did not try to assign blame.

Senate GOP leaders, however, were clearly irked by the debacle. In his attempt to sway Paul to relent, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas declared his fellow Republican was "wasting everyone's time" and prompting a shutdown for "no good reason." But Paul, the resident contrarian, repelled suggestions to stand aside.

"I didn't come up here to be part of somebody's club. I didn't come up here to be liked," Paul said.

The budget agreement is married to a six-week temporary funding bill needed to keep the government operating and to provide time to implement the budget pact.

The bill includes huge spending increases sought by Republicans for the Pentagon along with a big boost demanded by Democrats for domestic agencies. Both sides pressed for $89 billion for disaster relief, extending a host of health care provisions, and extending a slew of smaller tax breaks.