WASHINGTON - A behind-the-scenes congressional battle to avoid a U.S. government shutdown broke into public view Thursday when Republicans produced a stopgap funding bill that Democrats immediately rejected.
The federal fiscal year ends September 30 and Congress must pass a spending measure by then to keep the government open. In recent years, lawmakers have seldom been able to agree on a full federal budget and instead have relied on stopgap measures.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, capped weeks of labored negotiations by proposing a continuing resolution that would fund government agencies from October 1 through December 9 at an annual rate of just over $1 trillion.
The measure also includes $1.1 billion to combat the spreading Zika virus, $500 million in flood relief for states including Louisiana and funding for U.S. military operations overseas at an annual rate of $74 billion.
"There have been broad requests for a clean continuing resolution. So that's what I've just offered," said McConnell, who described the measure as a product of bipartisan negotiations.
No deal, Democrats say
But Democrats quickly opposed the resolution as "a Republican-only bill" that would not help Flint, Michigan, cope with lead-contaminated water and would leave in place a prohibition against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requiring public companies to disclose political spending.
"We Democrats cannot vote for that," said Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
McConnell left out a provision backed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his former White House rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, that would have stopped the U.S. government from moving oversight of the internet's technical management to a global community of stakeholders on October 1.
Also absent was language that would have enabled the U.S. Export-Import Bank to approve loans or guarantees of more than $10 million. Republicans and Democrats had sought to include a provision, but the issue proved too controversial for the must-pass funding resolution.
A senior Republican aide said the Senate would begin voting on the funding legislation as early as Monday.