US government shutdown averted but December clash looms

Congress steered the US government clear of a shutdown hours before a midnight deadline, approving temporary federal spending that does not defund women's health care provider Planned Parenthood as Republicans had hoped.

Washington: Congress steered the US government clear of a shutdown hours before a midnight deadline, approving temporary federal spending that does not defund women's health care provider Planned Parenthood as Republicans had hoped.

The Senate and House, both controlled by Republicans, acted pragmatically to fund the government at current levels beyond today's start of the new fiscal year. The legislation heads to President Barack Obama who was expected to sign it before midnight.

The stopgap measure only runs until December 11, setting up a new potential fiscal clash just 10 weeks from now.

But it avoids a repeat of 2013, when bickering lawmakers failed to reach a deal on spending and the government skidded into a damaging 16-day shutdown.
Obama, speaking to Democratic state lawmakers at the White House, hailed yesterday's congressional action.

"It looks like the Republicans will just barely avoid shutting down the government for the second time in two years," he said.

House Republican Charlie Dent noted it would be "utterly reckless" to trigger a spending crisis over Planned Parenthood.

"Whether you like them or not isn't the point. We should never shut the government down over that or frankly any other issue at this time."

The spending includes funding for the women's healthcare and abortion provider long targeted by Republicans, and which is at the center of a swirling controversy.

Debate exploded earlier this year, when abortion foes released secretly recorded videos that they said show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the for-profit sale of fetal tissue obtained during abortion procedures, which would be a violation of federal law.

Planned Parenthood insists the videos were deceitfully edited, and that its staff was merely discussing the process for obtaining the tissue and the legal payments by research facilities to cover expenses including transportation.

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