Senate Sends Trump Seven-Week Spending Bill to Avoid Shutdown

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The president is expected to sign the stopgap measure and avoid an appropriations lapse, but a funding fight still looms.

The Senate on Thursday approved a stopgap spending measure 82-15 that will keep government agencies open through Nov. 21, sending the bill to President Trump for his signature. 

The measure, which the House passed last week, will give lawmakers seven additional weeks to sort out full-year appropriations bills that set line-by-line spending levels at agencies across government. Current funding is set to expire at the end of the month, but the White House has indicated Trump will sign the continuing resolution into law. 

The House has already passed most of the 12 annual spending measures, while the Senate is just beginning that work. The Senate Appropriations Committee was poised on Thursday to send five of its own bills to the full chamber for consideration, adding to the four measures the panel has already approved. The Senate delayed its work passing spending bills until lawmakers struck a deal with the White House to set top-line funding levels; Trump signed that deal into law over the summer. 

The seven-week stopgap bill will largely keep agencies funded at their current levels, but it provides for some specific changes. The Office of Personnel Management, for example, would receive a slight funding boost to offset fees it surrendered when it transferred background investigation functions to the Defense Department. OPM had threatened to furlough employees due to the funding shortfall. The stopgap measure also would give a spending increase to the Census Bureau to enable it to proceed with preparations for its decennial count. 

The House and Senate will soon have to reconcile the differences between their versions of the various spending bills, with many thorny issues still outstanding. Democrats have sought to use the appropriations measures to block the Trump administration’s plans to transfer funding toward construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The two chambers are also operating under two different sets of funding levels for each of the 12 annual spending bills. 

Prior to the vote on the continuing resolution, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would have cut agency spending across the board by 2%. 

While Capitol Hill has been largely consumed this week by a whistleblower complaint alleging wrongdoing by the president and the subsequent announcement by House Democrats of an impeachment inquiry, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the everyday work of Congress must continue. 

“The business of the American people and the responsibilities of Congress do not pause while the House prepares to formally begin an impeachment inquiry,” Schumer said. “Today, for example, the Senate must pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open through the end of November and give appropriators time to complete the 12 appropriations bills.” 

Schumer cautioned, however, that the CR was “the easy part.” Passing actual appropriations, he said, would prove more difficult if Republicans insist on including funding for a border wall. 

“It's time for [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell, [R-Ky.], [Appropriations Committee] Chairman [Richard] Shelby, [R-Ala.] and our Republican colleagues on the appropriations committee to sit down with Democrats and get a bipartisan process moving again,” Schumer said.