The Latest: Senate backs water bill, sends to Obama

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2016 1:16 AM
The Latest: Senate backs water bill, sends to Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the final days of the congressional session (all times local):

1:06 a.m.

Congress has approved a wide-ranging bill to authorize water projects across the country, including $170 million to address lead in Flint, Michigan's drinking water and $558 million to provide relief to drought-stricken California.

The Senate approved the $10 billion bill, 78-21, early Saturday morning despite complaints from some Democrats that the drought measure was a giveaway to California farmers and businesses. The vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California was one of the bill's key authors, but urged senators to vote no because of a last-minute provision that Boxer said puts the interests of big farms over the fishing industry.

Fellow California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the bill will increase water deliveries to farms and businesses devastated by the years-long drought.


11 p.m.

Congress has averted a government shutdown — with less than hour to spare.

The vote in the Senate late Friday night was 63-36 for a stopgap spending bill that will keep the government operating through April 28.

The bill provides disaster relief to Louisiana after summer flooding and $10.1 billion in emergency war-fighting money for the Pentagon. It expedites the process for confirming President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis.

Passage of the bill came after coal-state Democrats relented and accepted a short-term fix for providing health care benefits for retired miners.


6 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia says coal-state Democrats won't shut down the government over health benefits for retired miners.

Warner made the comments late Friday just six hours before a midnight deadline. The Democrats have stalled a must-pass spending bill as they've pressed for a one-year extension for the benefits for thousands of retired miners. Republican leaders such as Speaker Paul Ryan balked at a lengthy extension and only agreed to a four-month fix.

Although no deal was announced, the Senate was on track to vote Friday night on the spending bill that would keep the government operating through April 28.


1:15 p.m.

A bipartisan group of senators wants to help immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children and granted work permits by President Barack Obama.

Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are sponsoring a bill as a remedy for those immigrants in case President-elect Donald Trump rescinds the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, which has extended work permits and temporary deportation relief for those people.

During the campaign Trump pledged to terminate Obama's executive actions on immigration, but he said in a Time Magazine interview this week that he will "work something out" for DACA.

Graham and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are co-sponsors of the legislation. It's unclear how many other Republicans would support it. The lawmakers plan to push the bill next year.


12:50 p.m.

A Montana Democrat says he wants to curb the power that members of Congress and top-level bureaucrats can wield once they've left the federal government for jobs in the private sector.

On a conference call with reporters Friday, Sen. Jon Tester says he'll be introducing legislation early next year to enforce President-elect Donald Trump's pledge to "drain the swamp" in the nation's capital of lobbyists, donors and political cronies.

Tester says he hopes Trump will support his bill. But the senator says he's worried the president-elect is actually "bringing in more gators" by tapping a host of insiders and campaign contributors for jobs in his administration.

Tester says his bill would ban ex-lawmakers and certain While House officials from doing any lobbying for five years after leaving civil service.


12:37 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he and other coal-state Democrats will continue fighting for retired miners next year if they lose their current fight to extend benefits in a short-term spending bill.

Manchin says Democrats "will carry the momentum" of the current political standoff "and win the fight in January."

Manchin told reporters on a conference call that he is still seeking to find a solution in the short-term spending bill to keep the federal government operating beyond Friday's midnight deadline. But he said that regardless of what happens, retired miners will get at least four months of benefits.

The spending bill has stalled in the Senate as Democrats fight for a one-year extension for the miners' health benefits rather than the temporary fix.


10:27 a.m.

The Senate's top Republican is seeking to turn the tables on the coal-state Democrats standing in the way of swift passage of a stopgap spending bill over health benefits for retired miners.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Friday the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress have waged a "war on coal" that has created economic hardships for miners.

The spending bill to keep the federal government operating through April is stalled in the Senate as Democrats facing re-election in 2018, including West Virginia's Joe Manchin, are fighting for a one-year extension for the miners' health benefits rather than the temporary, four-month fix in the bill.

Manchin has called the short fix "horrendous" and "inhumane."

McConnell says the temporary extension is the best they're going to get.

He says "this is a good time to take yes for answer."