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Senate Passes Short-Term Spending Bill to Prevent Friday Shutdown

Yuval Rosenberg

The Senate passed a stopgap bill Thursday to keep the government open through December 20, sending the measure to President Trump’s desk hours before current funding was set to expire.

The president is expected to sign the bill, which was passed by the House earlier this week, preventing a government shutdown at midnight.

In addition to funding the government, the bill also provides $7.3 billion in annual spending for the Census Bureau, provides a 3.1% military pay raise and extends a number of controversial surveillance programs.

The temporary spending bill is the second passed by Congress for the current fiscal year, which began on October 1. Lawmakers have yet to pass any of the 12 required annual spending bills, and the short-term funding will give appropriators four more weeks to try to work out their differences on long-delayed bills setting full-year spending levels for federal agencies.

“Hopes for such a deal look highly uncertain,” The Washington Post’s Erica Werner reported, “but the alternative is to extend funding at current levels through the remainder of 2020, which would cause the Pentagon and domestic agencies to miss out on billions of dollars in budget increases. That’s an outcome lawmakers in both parties would like to avoid.”

Lawmakers will reportedly try to make some progress through phone calls and staff talks during their one-week Thanksgiving recess.

The bottom line: Thursday’s 74-20 Senate vote averts a Friday shutdown but likely sets up a pre-Christmas fight over government funding and the contentious question of providing billions of dollars for Trump’s barriers along the border with Mexico.

“The wall I think is the major impediment. But that’s only one bill: the Department of Homeland Security,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said earlier this week, according to The Hill. “But it ought not to adversely affect the other 11 bills. They’re being held hostage, essentially.”

That fight is likely to take place at around the same time that the House is voting on articles of impeachment against Trump, potentially complicating any drive to avoid another government shutdown before the end of the year.

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