Government shutdown nears after Senate fails to pass continuing resolution

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (L) and U.S. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R). © Reuters
The federal government may soon be underwater, with the Senate divided over, well, water. The lack of funding for Flint’s lead-contamination crisis kept a temporary spending bill from being passed, and now a government shutdown is mere days away.

On Friday at the stroke of midnight, the US government will be officially unfunded and move into shutdown mode, unless the Senate and House of Representatives can recover from what took place Tuesday.

In a 45-55 vote, a continuing resolution bill to fund the federal government through December 9 failed to gain a bare majority in the Senate. It falls far short of the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.

The bill also included over $1 billion for Zika virus research, including vaccine funding. While that came as a result of negotiations and attempts at compromise from both sides of the aisle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) lost the support of many conservatives. Democrats predictably voted against the bill, long demanding aid for Flint, Michigan, where for two years residents have struggled with a lead-contaminated drinking water system.

The Senate approved $220 million for Flint earlier this month, but it was not included in the continuing resolution.

Republicans have promised to fund help for Flint in a water resources bill that would come in November after the general election, or even as far ahead as December. Currently, that bill does not include text concerning Flint though.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) isn’t having any of it, saying, “‘Trust me we will consider Flint later’ – that's like nothing to me,”according to ABC News.

Democrats insist Flint funding belongs in the continuing resolution, pointing to the fact that Louisiana and other southern states affected by recent flooding have $500 million set aside for them. The response from Senator McConnell has been that he may take the natural disaster relief out of the continuing resolution and attach it to the water resources bill.

“It's almost as if a few Democratic leaders decided long ago that bringing our country to the brink would make for good election-year politics,” Senator McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

A House version of the water sources bill is being debated Tuesday, but it will not include Flint funding until later, Republicans say. Monday night, Representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), whose district covers Flint, was blocked from putting his funding measure up for a vote.

The Obama administration supports Flint funding, but has not been specific about what legislation it should be included in.

“Congress should quickly pass targeted funding to support Flint, Michigan, whether in the Water Resources Development Act or another vehicle,” the White House said Monday, according to the Washington Post.

A previous point of contention in the continuing resolution was a spending cut of $400 million. That, ABC News reports, is “no longer controversial” since other language in the bill to exclude Planned Parenthood from Zika virus funding in Puerto Rico and deregulate the Clean Water Act’s pesticide rules were tossed out.

The continuing resolution would also increase the next year’s Department of Veterans Affairs budget by 4 percent.

Friday also marks the last day the full Congress will be in session until November 13.