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[WASHINGTON] The Senate passed a US government spending plan hours before a shutdown deadline, sending the bill to the House where Speaker John Boehner promised a vote over objections from fellow Republicans who wanted to use it to defund Planned Parenthood.
The measure, which continues to fund Planned Parenthood, passed the Senate 78-20 on Wednesday. The House has set up a procedure allowing a vote later in the day, before government funding expires at midnight. President Barack Obama's administration supports the measure.
"We'll be sending it over to the House where I'm optimistic it will pass," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters Tuesday. Mr McConnell also said that he, Mr Boehner and Mr Obama plan soon to begin discussions on a "topline" government spending limit for the next two fiscal years.
Mr McConnell and Mr Boehner repeatedly have said that although they too want to cancel federal funds for Planned Parenthood, they wouldn't go along with conservative Republicans' willingness to shut down the government over the issue. The dispute between Mr Boehner and members of his Republican caucus led in part to his decision last week to resign from Congress at the end of October.
Mr Boehner said he expects Democrats to help pass the spending bill, which would finance the government through Dec 11.
Representative Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, one of about 30 Republican conservatives who had said they were prepared to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood, sent an e-mail to fellow Republicans on Monday complaining that the short-term spending measure was being "shoved down our throats at the eleventh hour." Mr Mullin said Americans will remain "fed up" with government unless Republicans use the House leadership change to "hire leaders instead of promoting them based on longevity." The chamber's second-ranking Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, is the frontrunner to replace Mr Boehner.
Conservatives have said they are outraged by undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing reimbursement for providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers.
The organization has said it doesn't sell fetal tissue for profit, and instead receives the cost of collecting and delivering it. Senate Democrats blocked an earlier measure that would defund the women's reproductive health-care group.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told a House committee Tuesday that the organization follows the law in providing fetal tissue for research, and that claims based on undercover videos made by anti-abortion groups are "offensive and categorically untrue." Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for Planned Parenthood.