Senate

Senate sends funding bill to Trump to avert shutdown

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The Senate on Thursday easily cleared a two-week stopgap funding bill, one day before the deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Senators voted 81-14 on the legislation, which cleared the House earlier in the day.

The bill now heads to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it.

Six Republicans, seven Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against the legislation. 

Congress had until the end of Friday to pass a bill or spark a government shutdown — something GOP leadership has been adamant they would not let happen while they control the levers of power in Washington.

Lawmakers now face another deadline on Dec. 22, setting up a funding showdown just three days before Christmas.

Top GOP senators urged their colleagues to support the legislation despite grumbling among some in the caucus about the impact a continuing resolution has on military spending.

“We need this legislation to give Congress and the administration additional time to agree on responsible spending levels for the current fiscal year and beyond. … I hope the Dec. 22 backstop will facilitate an agreement that will enable the Congress to provide funding for important national security and domestic priorities,” Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said shortly before the Thursday evening vote.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the stopgap measure would “provide us with the time we need to complete discussions on a long-term solution.”

But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said it was “unacceptable” that Congress was passing the stopgap bill.

“I have implored Congress and the White House to negotiate a bipartisan budget agreement, because without one, the military will be funded under a Continuing Resolution at the Budget Control Act levels,” he said.

Senate Republicans can’t pass a government funding bill on their own, and needed consent from Democrats to speed up debate of the legislation to meet Friday’s deadline.

Democratic leadership remained tight-lipped throughout the week about if they would support a continuing resolution as they looked for leverage in negotiations on a final, year-end spending package. 

“I don’t know. I think this is likely to pass,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters in the lead up to Thursday’s vote.

Negotiators are hoping to get a deal on the budget caps before the Dec. 22 deadline. 

 
An agreement would likely allow lawmakers to pass another continuing resolution into January and use the time to craft a “omnibus” spending bill that would fund the government through the rest of the 2018 fiscal year. 
 
If lawmakers aren’t able to get a deal on the budget, sequestration is set to start in mid-January, which will spark automatic spending cuts. 
 
McConnell, Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House on Thursday to discuss the looming year-end fight. 
 
McConnell told reporters after the meeting that they did not reach an agreement, with Schumer and Pelosi offering a similar take in a joint statement. 
 

“We had a productive conversation on a wide variety of issues. Nothing specific has been agreed to, but discussions continue,” they said. 

 
Democrats want an equal increase in defense and nondefense spending, as well as an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 
 
The Trump administration announced earlier this year that it was nixing DACA, which allows immigrants brought into the country as children to live and work. The program will expire in March. 
Trump’s move has sparked a legislative showdown in the Senate.
 

Democrats, who say the issue needs to be dealt with by the end of the year, want Republicans to pass a deal that links the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act with border security. 

 
Republicans, and the White House, counter that an immigration deal will not be included in the funding bill. 

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who introduced legislation that would include a path to citizenship, said on Thursday that lawmakers didn’t have time to reach an agreement by the end of the year. 

“There’s too many outstanding issues. … There’s not enough time to build the coalitions to get a result by the end of the year,” he said. 

In addition to Sanders and McCain, the senators who voted against the stopgap funding bill were Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

– This story was updated at 6:31 p.m.

Tags Ben Sasse Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Cory Booker Dick Durbin Donald Trump Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren James Lankford Jeff Merkley John McCain Joni Ernst Kamala Harris Kirsten Gillibrand Mazie Hirono Mike Lee Mike Rounds Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Ted Cruz Thad Cochran

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