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Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown ahead of midnight deadline

Posted September 30, 2020 5:07 a.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2020 6:16 p.m. EDT

Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown ahead of midnight deadline

— The Senate on Wednesday approved a stopgap spending bill in order to avert a government shutdown just hours before a midnight deadline when funding is set to expire.

The bill, which will keep the government funded through December 11, passed out of the upper chamber overwhelmingly by a vote of 84-10 and is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump. It was approved by the House last week by a wide margin.

The President must sign the legislation before midnight to take the threat of a shutdown prior to the November presidential election off the table.

But by funding the government only until mid-December, the legislation still sets up the possibility of a funding fight and potential shutdown after the election and just before the start of a new Congress.

The continuing resolution, while far short of bipartisan full-year funding bills, is the product of bipartisan negotiation and an agreement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin -- one that had initially appeared to fall apart just a few weeks before the funding deadline.

The deal to avert a shutdown has so far proved to be a rare spot of bipartisan agreement at a time when partisan tensions are running especially high amid a high-stakes battle in the Senate over the confirmation of Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

The agreement clinched by Pelosi and Mnuchin includes a provision that will likely send tens of billions of dollars to the Commodity Credit Corporation -- a priority for Republicans and bipartisan members from agricultural states and districts -- which will replenish crucial aid to farmers. It includes some restrictions, after Democrats raised concerns that the money was being utilized by the Trump administration to distribute funds to favored political interests.

The measure also includes nearly $8 billion in nutrition assistance -- a central Democratic priority during the negotiations.

After negotiations broke down, Democrats had initially drafted a stopgap measure that left out the farm aid and nutrition assistance and had been poised to vote on that measure last week.

But the threat of moving the legislation without bipartisan consensus -- and the possibility that Democrats from agriculture-heavy districts would defect -- served to raise the risk of a government shutdown given the narrowing timeline before the September 30 government funding deadline, and ultimately both sides returned to the table and hammered out the deal.

The attention of appropriators, once the Senate passes the stopgap measure, will turn to what can be accomplished over the next two months.

Lawmakers in both chambers say the goal remains to pass and reconcile funding bills for the remainder of the fiscal year. But they acknowledge that the results of the election will play a significant role in what gets done before the new Congress -- and potentially new administration -- takes office in 2021.

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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