Senate approves funding bill by voice vote to avert shutdown
The Senate passed a one-week stopgap bill on Friday, hours ahead of a government shutdown deadline.
Senators passed the bill by a voice vote, moving the funding deadline from the end of the day Friday to Dec. 18.
The one-week continuing resolution (CR) already passed the House on Wednesday, meaning it now goes to President Trump’s desk, where he’ll need to sign it by midnight.
Though a shutdown is averted for now, negotiators are still trying to lock down a mammoth agreement that would include the 12 fiscal 2021 bills and fund the government until Oct. 1, 2021.
“I remain hopeful that essential progress on these items will continue. We ought to pass a full-year funding measure and I hope our committees in the Senate and House can complete their work and deliver legislation next week,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Top appropriators and members of leadership have been locked in behind-the-scenes talks for weeks to try to work out an agreement. They already passed two CRs — Friday’s and a measure that passed at the end of September to get the government past the start of the 2021 fiscal year that started on Oct. 1.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said that the mammoth funding deal is largely down to the last hurdle: how to cover the cost of a Veterans Affairs health care program.
“The omnibus is moving along. We’re trying to work out the veterans health,” Shelby said. “That’s the big one right now. It’s the only big one.”
The bill’s passage on Friday wasn’t without drama.
Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) decision to slow-walk the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) initially sparked speculation that the CR could go down to, or potentially over, the deadline. The NDAA ultimately passed with 84 votes, well over the amount needed to overturn a veto, on Friday afternoon.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) appeared uncertain that Congress would be able to pass a bill just hours earlier.
“Neither side is blinking,” he said. “There’s either going to be a bunch of stuff or nothing.”
The issues with quick passage of the CR came from both sides of the aisle. A group of GOP senators wanted votes on legislation related to preventing future government shutdowns, but ultimately backed down on Friday.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are also pushing for a second round of stimulus checks. While they agreed to let the CR pass on Friday — because leadership went down to the deadline they needed cooperation from every senator — they warned that they were digging in for a fight next week ahead of the new Dec. 18 deadline.
“I am not one of the members of the Senate who shuts down, does this or does that and keeps you here for the weekend. I don’t do that,” Sanders said. “But this I want to say right now, I am prepared to withdraw my objection at this moment, but I will not be prepared to withdraw an objection next week.”
Updated 2:21 p.m.
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