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The Oklahoman: Oklahoma votes are mixed on short-term spending bill averting government shutdown

October 1, 2015
News Stories

The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel

Congress averted a government shutdown Wednesday, approving a short-term spending bill just hours before the deadline with strong bipartisan support.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation, which will keep departments funded close to their current levels until Dec. 11, two weeks before Christmas.

The Senate vote was 78-20, and the House vote was 277-151. Though they are the minority in both houses, Democrats carried the votes. But many Republicans — still smarting from the 2013 shutdown over the Affordable Care Act — joined to keep the government operating.

Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, voted against the bill to fund government into December, as did Reps. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, and Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa.

Reps. Tom Cole, R-Moore; Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne; and Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, voted for it.

The conflict over a short-term spending bill focused most recently on Planned Parenthood, though it wasn't the family planning group issue that kept Congress from getting the regular spending bills passed.

The overarching problem has been Democratic objections to the method used by Republicans to increase defense spending while keeping other departments at current budget levels.

Those issues still haven't been resolved. If they are not resolved by Dec. 11, Congress may have to pass another short-term spending bill. Republican leaders and the White House also will have to reach agreement on raising the nation's debt ceiling and reversing the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the American people “deserve far better than last-minute, short-term legislating.”

Cole, who helped push the bill through the House and was one of 91 Republicans in the House to vote for it, said, “While another short-term funding bill is not perfect, the alternative of a government shutdown is far worse.

“In the days, weeks and months ahead, I hope that lawmakers in both chambers and the president will waste no more time and instead work together to negotiate a broader budget agreement.” 

Cole said there was no funding in the bill for Planned Parenthood.

Most of the federal funding obtained by the group is through Medicaid reimbursements, which were not part of the bill, Cole said. And the grant funding received by the group is typically allocated in the spring, he said.

The measure includes about $700 million in emergency funding to fight wildfires in western states and extra money for the Veterans Affairs Department to process disability claims.

Online: The Oklahoman