Just hours before a midnight deadline, a bitterly divided Congress approved a stopgap spending bill Wednesday to keep the federal government open but with no assurance there won't be yet another shutdown showdown in December.
Democrats helped beleaguered House Republican leaders pass the measure by 277-151 — a lopsided vote shrouding deep disagreements within the GOP — after the Senate approved it by a 78-20 tally earlier in the day. President Barack Obama signed the bill Wednesday evening, but not without White House carping.
"The American people deserve far better than last-minute, short-term legislating," said spokesman Josh Earnest in pressing for a broader, longer-lasting budget deal.
Approval of such stopgap measures used to be routine, but debate this year exposed acrimonious divisions between pragmatic Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner and more junior lawmakers in the party's tea party wing who are less inclined to compromise. The tea partyers had demanded that the must-pass measure be used to punish Planned Parenthood, stripping it of federal money because of its practice of supplying tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research.
House Republicans opposed the measure by a clear margin, but Democratic support was unanimous.
The legislation finances the government through Dec. 11, providing 10 weeks to negotiate a more wide-ranging budget deal that would carry past the 2016 presidential election. But the talks promise to be difficult, and success is not assured.
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