The Senate cleared a bill Wednesday to fund the government and the federal response to Zika, avoiding a potentially embarrassing government shutdown just weeks before the election.
The measure — which would fund the federal government through December 9 — was passed two days before federal agencies were set to run out of money.
The House is expected to approve the bill later Wednesday.
After weeks of negotiation and stalemate, the bill ended up getting broad support, passing 72-26, after both parties agreed to approve $220 million for Flint, Michigan, to respond to the lead poisoning in its water supply.
Senators up for re-election can now return home to campaign.
The bill included $1.1 billion for Zika, $500 million for flooding in Louisiana and other states, and $37 million for opioid addiction.
The White House praised the Senate’s passage of the bill, though it expressed disappointment that the measure did not include provisions to restore a board quorum to the Export-Import Bank or allow the Securities and Exchange Commission greater authority in regulating public companies’ political spending.
“The administration looks forward to working with the Congress to support investments equally balanced between defense and non-defense spending that will create jobs, support middle-class families, contribute to long-term growth, and safeguard national security,” the statement said.
Under the outline of the deal, reached Tuesday night by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Speaker Paul Ryan, the leadership agreed to add aid for Flint on a separate water projects bill, setting up the Wednesday vote on that package. A House-Senate conference committee would later reconcile the two competing bills, setting the stage for final approval of the Flint aid in December.
Speaking at the Washington Economic Forum on Wednesday morning, Ryan said he believes that moving the Flint aid on the water bill “will help unlock” the funding package, asserting that the Flint issue “now, I think, will be unstuck.”
The deadline to fund federal agencies is Friday at midnight. Ryan said Wednesday there won’t be a shutdown because GOP members understand the process behind backing a short-term bill.
“Basically, we are having a low-drama moment now,” Ryan said.
On the Senate floor Wednesday morning, Minority Leader Harry Reid said the movement in the House is a “step in the right direction.” But he had warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not to back off commitments to approve money for Flint.
“Why can’t they just say they’ll do it?” Reid said. “We’ll continue to exercise caution moving forward, but I’m glad to see progress has been made.”
Reid said on the floor of the Senate he has been given assurances by Republicans that Flint funding will get done in the lame duck session, the period after the elections.
“I am convinced there is going to be help for Flint in the lame duck,” he said, adding this should clear the way for government funding to pass probably Wednesday in the Senate and then the House.