US Congress approves funding Bill to end federal shutdown

House approval spares Republican blushes after Rand Paul makes nine-hour speech

Funding for the federal government lapsed at midnight eastern time (5am Irish time) after Kentucky Republican Rand Paul stalled a Senate vote on a far-reaching budget agreement to fund the government through March 22nd. Video: C-Span

 

The US government is set to reopen after the House of Representatives passed a spending Bill in an early morning vote, bringing to an end the second US government shutdown in less than three weeks.

Pending the signature of US president Donald Trump, the Bill will reopen the government which officially shut down at midnight, after a Republican senator blocked the Bill in the Senate.

The government shutdown took many by surprise.

The Bill had been expected to easily pass the Senate after the 100-member chamber agreed a bipartisan spending Bill on Wednesday. But Rand Paul, a conservative Republican, objected to the huge spending increases included in the Bill, which includes $300 billion in extra funds for defence and domestic spending.

Mr Paul staged a nine-our, one-man protest at the Bill, delaying a vote on Thursday evening with the result that the Senate vote was not held until shortly before 2am, passing 71 to 28.

The house then voted at about 5.30 am, passing the Bill by 240 to 186.

This was despite objections by many Democrats that the Bill did not include a provision for so-called “dreamers” – young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi delivered a record eight-hour speech on the house floor on Wednesday outlining her opposition to the Bill and calling for a deal on migrants. But many Democrats ultimately relented and backed the Bill, ensuring the reopening of the government.

The prospect of a government shutdown has added to market concerns in the United States.

US markets were hit by fresh turmoil on Thursday as the Dow Jones plunged by more than 1000 points and the S & P shed 3.7 per cent, reigniting fears about a stock market rout.

While the two-year budget solution negotiated by the US senate ultimately passed on Friday morning, it pencils in $300 billion in extra spending over the next two years. That proposed increase in the US debt and deficit is concerning some analysts - as well as fiscal conservatives like Mr Paul.

Mr Paul, who was criticized by many for his stance in the Senate, defended his behaviour on Thursday.

“The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot,” Mr Paul said. “I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, ‘How come you were against president Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?’”

House speaker Paul Ryan welcomed the deal, highlighting the fact that increased military spending had now been sanctioned. “This is a great victory for our men and women in uniform. We ultimately reached a bipartisan compromise that fully funds our troops and gives our generals the certainty they need to plan for the future,” he said.