Short-lived shutdown

Trump signs budget deal, government reopens

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday signed a $400 billion budget deal that sharply boosts spending and swells the federal deficit, ending a brief federal government shutdown that happened while most Americans were sleeping and most government offices were closed, anyway.

The House and Senate approved a bill to keep the government funded through March 23, overcoming opposition from liberal Democrats as well as tea party conservatives to endorse enormous spending increases despite looming trillion-dollar deficits. The House voted 240-186 to approve the bill just before dawn Eastern time, hours after the Senate had approved the measure on a 71-28 vote.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that he had signed the bill, writing that the U.S. military “will now be stronger than ever before.” The budget bill “also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” Trump tweeted.

The twin votes put to rest a brief federal freeze that relatively few would notice. Many who did quickly labeled it a pointless, head-scratching episode. The shutdown was the second partial government shutdown 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 House 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 in the House, 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, R-Wis., urged Congress to avoid a “second needless shutdown in a matter of weeks — entirely needless.”

In the end, 73 Democrats voted in favor of the bill in the House, while 67 Republicans opposed it.

There was far less drama in the Senate, where the measure sailed through by a 71-28 tally once Paul’s protest ran its course.

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.

The White House kept its distance from the quarreling on Capitol Hill. Trump did not tweet on the issue Thursday 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, Texas Sen. John Cornyn 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.

It also would increase the government’s debt cap, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. Such debt limit votes are usually enormous headaches for GOP leaders, but the increase means another vote won’t occur before March 2019.

Senate leaders had celebrated the budget deal as a sign they had left behind some of their chronic dysfunction. Just three weeks ago, Senate Democrats sparked a three-day partial government shutdown by staging a filibuster on a spending bill, seeking relief for “Dreamer” immigrants who’ve lived in the country illegally since they were children.

Senate Democrats had no appetite for another shutdown.

House GOP leaders shored up support among conservatives for the measure, which would shower the Pentagon with money but add hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation’s $20 trillion-plus debt.

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