Acutely partisan and all but dysfunctional, Congress has completed its most elementary task after an intense weekslong struggle, finalizing a deal to fund the government just days ahead of a shutdown deadline, the AP reports. The legislation extends existing spending levels a mere 10 weeks, past Election Day, while finally addressing the Zika crisis with $1.1 billion and providing long-sought help for the residents of Flint, Mich., as well as flood victims in Louisiana. After a last-minute burst of deal-making, the legislation passed the Senate on a 72-26 vote Wednesday and was backed by the House 342-85 in a late-night vote.
Republicans, defending a fragile Senate majority and eager to get a handful of vulnerable incumbents back home to campaign for re-election, accused Harry Reid of holding up a deal to keep GOP lawmakers off the campaign trail. Democrats lobbed their own allegations, all but accusing Republicans of racism for holding up money for people affected by lead-tainted water in Flint. The situation produced frustration all around as lawmakers of both parties lamented their inability to get their basic work done, even if each party insisted the other was to blame. Yet even as they stumbled to a messy solution, some lawmakers were already looking ahead to next year, when much weightier tasks await the next Congress and a new president in what may be an even more fraught era of divided government. (Read more government spending stories.)