WASHINGTON -- With limited discussion and zero fanfare, the House on Tuesday approved and sent to President Barack Obama a measure to keep the government operating through mid-November, ending for now the threat of any shutdown.
By a vote of 352-66, the House approved the measure, passed by the Senate just a week ago, closing another anguished chapter in the fiscal war between Republicans and Democrats that continues to dominate Congress.
Although the debate over the bill was so short -- roughly 10 minutes -- that the House whip's office was caught by surprise and briefly delayed the vote, 53 Republicans opposed the measure, in a show of displeasure that the bill did not have deeper cuts to government spending; 13 Democrats also rejected it.
It remained unclear Tuesday whether future short-term spending exercises, which have been the source of sharp partisan conflict all year, would resurface again this year; congressional leaders hope to avoid them by passing individual spending bills for agencies.
The short-term spending agreement that got the House nod Tuesday became the subject of controversy late last month because the Republicans insisted that extra money for victims of natural disasters, which had been tucked into the bill, be offset with other cuts in federal spending, namely to an environmental program favored by Democrats.
Democrats balked at such a move, fearing that it would set a precedent for future natural disasters, in which the government would be forced to look for offsets in spending to aid victims of hurricanes, tornadoes and the like.
As part of those offsets, Republicans further inflamed Democrats by seeking cuts to a program that guaranteed a loan for Solyndra, the Fremont solar equipment manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy protection.
The impasse ended when FEMA found enough money to make it through the 2011 fiscal year -- which ended Friday -- allowing Congress to sidestep the issue of whether to offset an immediate infusion of cash to the agency.
It is not clear whether Congress will be able to pass individual spending bills for the 2012 fiscal year or be forced to bundle them together, a practice that has previously been derided by House Speaker John Boehner.