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Averting shutdown, budget stopgap sets up Congress for bigger fight

Congress passed a bill to extend funding until December, hours before the deadline for a possible government shutdown. But the sharply divided vote in the House only seems to set up a potentially bigger fight later on. Political director Lisa Desjardins talks with Judy Woodruff from Capitol Hill.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just hours before a possible government shutdown, Congress today passed a bill to keep funding flowing until December 11.

    But today’s votes showed the continued sharp divide within the Republican Party and it seemed to set up an even bigger fight in December.

    To unpack another dramatic day in Congress, our political director, Lisa Desjardins, has been following the developments, and she joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    So, Lisa, they dodged a bullet. They avoided the shutdown, but this was despite the opposition of over 150 Republicans in the House. What happened?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s right.

    You know, this seemed to be a fait accompli as we walked in the door this morning. Of course, a shutdown would be averted. That was the expectation. But I think there were several surprises today, Judy, and the biggest note for today was that two-thirds of House Republicans voted against the bill to continue funding government.

    There were a variety of reasons, they said, for that, but at the top of that list, Judy, was the fight over Planned Parenthood. Now, it’s an interesting contrast, Judy, because while two-thirds of House Republicans voted against that funding bill to keep government running, two-thirds of Senate Republicans voted for it.

    So, what we saw today, Judy, was such a great contrast between the Senate, which seems to be running on procedure and tradition right now, and the House, where there is so much anger among House Republicans, that, really, Republicans seem to be running there mostly on emotion and anger.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, you know, we have been told, Lisa, that there’s a group of, what, 40 or 50 hard-liners, if you will, in the Republican Party in the House who were giving fits to Speaker Boehner, leading to his resignation.

    But now you have got 150 Republicans voting against keeping the government going over this Planned Parenthood issue. What does that say?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, I think we can’t read too far into this, because I think this was a certain vote. Republicans knew that government wasn’t going to shut down, that enough Democrats would vote yes to keep government going.

    So, in a way, it wasn’t a complete test of what these Republicans would do if it were solely up to them. But I think you’re right that we have this caucus that is the most conservative group in the House, 40 or so members, and they are the most vocal. They are the ones that really are dominating discussion, even still, even after House Speaker Boehner’s resignation, to the degree, Judy, where today there was even a last-ditch, last-minute vote on Planned Parenthood in the House.

    It was completely symbolic. It will not have any effect on funding. But just the fact that that came up yet again today shows that that group of House conservatives that is so vocal really has an outweighed amount of power on their conference.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, again, they averted the shutdown now, but what does this say about the future, December, another funding vote, so many other things that could come up between now and then?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think any student of history or Congress or legislation needs to pay very close attention to what happens the next few months. It is going to be exciting, potentially confusing, and potentially critical to the future of this country, as we face yet another deadline for the debt ceiling, but also as their there may be an opening, Judy, for the next month.

    As House Speaker Boehner remains in his position, there might be an opportunity for him to get through or try to get through some legislation that moderate Republicans like, things like the Export-Import Bank, or highway funding, to find a more secure source of highway funding, or even, imagine this, a two-year budget deal. That’s something that the Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, was talking about, and sources on both sides told me there are staff discussion now, not a lot of time to do it.

    But if they could, Judy, that would certainly save the next speaker a lot of headache. Now, the next big problem, of course, comes in December. This funding that was extended today runs out then. And, Judy, I have to tell you Democrats and Republicans both are digging in. I think that will be a ginormous fight, if that’s a word.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, if those things come to pass that you described in the next few months, a lot of conservatives will not be happy. So, you’re going to have a lot to cover up on the Hill.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thank you.

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