House Passes One-Week Stopgap Spending Bill to Avert Shutdown

The U.S. House passed a one-week stopgap spending bill on Wednesday to avert a government shutdown as congressional negotiators try to finalize funding for the rest of the fiscal year.

The temporary measure passed 343 to 67 and now heads to the Senate where it is expected to easily pass. President Donald Trump has indicated he’ll sign it before current funding runs out Dec. 11.

The short-term spending bill is necessary because none of the 12 annual appropriations bills for the fiscal year which began Oct. 1 have been enacted and talks on the omnibus package wrapping them altogether have not yet been completed. Lawmakers are also hoping to use that spending package as a vehicle for more than $900 billion in coronavirus-related stimulus.

As part of the virus-aid negotiations, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a surprise $916 billion offer on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday, but Democratic leaders said they wouldn’t accept a proposal that doesn’t include at least $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits. Democrats said they’re prioritizing the $908 billion plan by a bipartisan group that is still trying to resolve disagreements on liability protections for businesses and state and local aid.

McConnell on Wednesday urged Democrats to accept the Mnuchin offer or to move ahead with a bill that doesn’t include those two contentious provisions.

Congress‘s votes to push the government funding cliff off for a week gives negotiators a few more days to finalize a stimulus package.

“In addition to an omnibus appropriations bill, it is my hope that this additional week will allow negotiators the time to assemble an emergency coronavirus relief package. To take advantage of this window of opportunity, Leader McConnell must finally sit down with Democrats to find a bipartisan agreement,” said Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, who will lead the House Appropriations Committee next year.

The underlying omnibus bill seems to be on a more secure track.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said talks were getting close on the government spending bill, especially after he conferred with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday.

“I’ve told you we were at probably 95% closure a couple of days ago. I spoke with the speaker at length, we’ve got to get a deal,” he told reporters Wednesday.

Key sticking points involved $2 billion for Trump’s border wall, as well as funding for immigration raids and detention. Montana Senator Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the subcommittee overseeing the Homeland Security Department, told reporters he thinks differences can be resolved.

“I don’t anticipate that’ll be a problem,” he said. “I think we could have gotten this done by the 11th if we hadn’t gotten into the habit of settling deadlines and then never meeting them.”

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