House passes stopgap bill to avoid government shutdown

The House on Wednesday passed a weeklong stopgap bill to keep the government open through Dec. 18 before current funding expires Friday as lawmakers continue to negotiate a longer-term spending package and coronavirus relief.

The bill passed handily, 343-67, and now heads to the Senate for approval. It is expected to be quickly cleared for President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE's signature.

House Democratic leaders had initially hoped to wrap up legislative work for the year by the end of this week so that members could go home in time to quarantine for two weeks from any potential COVID-19 exposure from traveling and gathering in the Capitol before spending Christmas with their families.

ADVERTISEMENT

But with talks over an all-encompassing spending package known as an omnibus and coronavirus relief moving slowly, lawmakers acknowledged that they would need more time. Both sides are keen to avoid a damaging government shutdown during the height of the pandemic.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer says deal is imminent, as early as Tuesday Democrats ready to put a wrap on dragged-out talks Pelosi: Democrats within striking distance of deal MORE (D-Md.) called the stopgap measure an "admission of failure" as negotiators struggled to reach an agreement.

"This is something we have to do to keep the government working. But we ought not to believe or pretend or represent this is the way we ought to do business. It is not. It is a function of procrastination, a function of failing to come together and making compromises," Hoyer said on the House floor.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyBlack Hawk pilot shot down in Somalia jumps into Alabama Senate race Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Senate Democrats unveil remaining spending bills, teeing up clash with Republicans MORE (R-Ala.) said Wednesday that negotiators agreed on most issues for the omnibus package but still had some sticking points.

"We were at probably 95 percent closure a couple of days ago," Shelby told reporters in the Capitol. "We’ve got to get a deal. I think perhaps the omnibus and the COVID relief are kind of linked."

ADVERTISEMENT

The House passed 10 of the annual 12 appropriations bills earlier this year, but the Senate has yet to pass any of its versions of full-year spending bills.

Lawmakers are expected to attach coronavirus relief to the spending package since it's a must-pass bill that offers an available legislative vehicle.

Congressional leaders and the Trump administration have failed to reach a deal on coronavirus economic relief since the summer. But with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiking nationally and unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium programs set to expire this month, lawmakers are under pressure to pass a bill to provide at least some relief before the holidays.

A bipartisan group of centrist members of the House and Senate circulated a $908 billion coronavirus relief proposal on Wednesday that would provide $160 billion to state and local governments, extend expiring unemployment insurance programs, and provide a $300 weekly boost into April.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin backs raising debt ceiling with reconciliation if GOP balks Biden needs to be both Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside Billionaire tax gains momentum MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday suggested setting aside two of the biggest sticking points — liability protections for businesses and funding for state and local governments — and moving a pared-down bill with provisions that already have bipartisan consensus.

But Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight On The Money — Senate Democrats lay out their tax plans Democrats haggle as deal comes into focus Dem hopes for infrastructure vote hit brick wall MORE (D-Calif.) shot down the idea hours later and argued that funding for state and local governments is necessary for vaccine distribution.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinMajor Russian hacking group linked to ransomware attack on Sinclair: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report MORE on Tuesday offered a $916 billion proposal to Democrats that includes funding for state and local governments and liability protections. But Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPricing methane and carbon emissions will help US meet the climate moment Democratic senator: Methane fee could be 'in jeopardy' Manchin jokes on party affiliation: 'I don't know where in the hell I belong' MORE (D-N.Y.) said it didn't provide enough funding for unemployment insurance.