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House passes bill to avert shutdown

The House passed legislation on Tuesday night to avert a government shutdown through Dec. 11, sending the bill to the Senate with just eight days left before current federal funding expires.

Lawmakers passed the bill in a bipartisan vote of 359-57 after Democrats earlier Tuesday rekindled negotiations with Republicans that had temporarily stalled because of a dispute over farm aid. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC Wray suggests limits on FBI social media tracking a 'lesson learned' after Jan. 6 Puerto Rico's former governor stages a comeback MORE (D-N.Y.) voted "present."

The government would shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill in time, a scenario that both parties want to avoid mere weeks before Election Day and amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The stopgap spending bill will now set up a clash over government funding in the lame-duck session after the November elections.

House Democrats initially introduced their own stopgap measure on Monday that did not include a provision sought by the Trump administration to ensure that farmer assistance payments continue flowing through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which has a borrowing limit of $30 billion.

Democrats planned to hold a vote on their bill Tuesday afternoon, setting up a potential pingpong scenario between the two chambers with time running out before current funding expires.

But talks between Democrats and Republicans resumed on Tuesday to resolve differences on the farm aid as well as an expiring program created by a coronavirus relief measure earlier this year to ensure that children who normally receive free or reduced-cost meals at schools still have access while they are closed for in-person instruction because of the pandemic.

The agreement struck between the two parties adds $8 billion in nutrition assistance programs and allows for the farm aid distributed through the CCC to continue but with measures sought by Democrats to prohibit payments to fossil fuel refiners and importers.

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It expands the expiring program providing low-income children with meals to include child care centers impacted by pandemic-related closures and gives states continued flexibility for food stamp requirements for another year.

The Senate is likely to take up the bill as soon as this week.

Senate Republicans hope to avoid a damaging potential government shutdown and are eager to instead focus on filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgOcasio-Cortez says Breyer should retire from Supreme Court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Juan Williams: Time for Justice Breyer to go MORE, who died on Friday.

President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE announced last week during a rally in Wisconsin that his administration would make an additional $13 billion available to help farmers recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration has previously allotted billions in aid for farmers — a key rural voter constituency for his reelection hopes — to soften the impact of the president's trade wars with China.

Democrats, meanwhile, opposed including the CCC funding in the stopgap spending bill and argued that it amounts to a "political slush fund" to help Trump mitigate the effects of his trade policies.

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But House Democratic leaders had also faced pushback from some members of their own caucus about excluding the farm aid from the initial stopgap bill.

Rep. Cindy AxneCindy AxneDemocrats face new pressure to raise taxes Iowa governor questions lack of notice on migrant children flights to Des Moines First Democrat announces Senate bid against Iowa's Grassley MORE (D-Iowa), a first-term lawmaker in a competitive district, publicly called on leadership to include the farm aid.

“I am deeply frustrated that once again Washington is playing games with the vital aid that Iowa’s farmers need as they continue to struggle with the long-term effects of a public health crisis, an economic downturn, a trade war, and recent natural disasters,” Axne said in a statement on Monday.