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Senate passes spending bill to avert shutdown hours before deadline

Senate passes spending bill to avert shutdown hours before deadline
© Bonnie Cash

The Senate on Wednesday passed a short-term funding bill just hours before the deadline to prevent a government shutdown.

Senators voted 84 to 10 to keep the government funded at current levels through Dec. 11, setting up another funding fight after the November elections and right before the holidays.

The funding bill, passed by the House earlier this month, now heads to President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE’s desk, where he is expected to sign it before midnight to keep the government running.

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In addition to extending government funding, the bill adds $8 billion in nutrition assistance programs; allows for the farm aid distributed through the Commodity Credit Corporation but with measures sought by Democrats to prohibit payments to fossil fuel refiners and importers; and expands an expiring program providing low-income children with meals to include child care centers impacted by pandemic-related closures.

The last-minute passage of the legislation comes after the Senate punted the bill last week as a burgeoning fight over the Supreme Court has diminished day-to-day cooperation in the chamber. Republicans had hoped to pass the continuing resolution (CR), which continues funding at fiscal 2020 levels, last week, but argue Democrats wanted to keep them off the campaign trail in the final stretch of the election.

“Right now I think they're just trying to throw a wrench into anything we do. Obviously it's retribution for the decision on the court and they just want to be difficult. I don't know why, it doesn't make sense to me either to bring everybody back,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFinger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight McConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session GOP power shift emerges with Trump, McConnell MORE (R-S.D.).

To avoid a shutdown on Dec. 12, lawmakers and the Trump administration will need to pass either another CR or a dozen fiscal 2021 funding bills.

Getting a deal on all 12 appropriations bills would be a herculean task given the deep disagreements between the two parties and the short timeframe. The outcome of the November elections will also play a role: If Democrats win back the White House and the Senate majority they could try to pass another CR into early 2021, when they would have more leverage.

Though the House has passed 10 of the 12 fiscal 2021 spending bills, the Senate has not taken up any amid a disagreement in the Appropriations Committee about the amendment process.

“It was a demonstration of failure … to the extent that what we ought to be doing is passing 12 appropriation bills in the House, 12 appropriation bills in the Senate,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTop Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Md.) told reporters about the need for a CR. “That did not happen. It has not been happening."