Many hurdles remain in avoiding a shutdown come Dec. 18.
The Senate on Friday unanimously passed a stopgap funding bill, punting the threat of a government shutdown for one week. President Trump signed the bill on Friday evening.
With government funding set to expire at the end of the day, the vote brought more drama than expected as several senators threatened to hold it up over various concerns. Ultimately, those lawmakers relented and allowed the measure—which the House passed on Wednesday, setting a new deadline of Dec. 18—to go to Trump.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., threatened to block a unanimous voice vote on the continuing resolution in an effort to push for approval of new stimulus checks for American citizens, as Congress authorized earlier this year to provide relief caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had also flirted with the possibility of allowing funding to lapse over his objections to the annual defense authorization bill. Ultimately, all the senators backed down.
Attention now turns to negotiations over a full-year omnibus appropriations package, which congressional leaders have said are close to yielding an agreement. Congressional leaders had expressed optimism they would have time to draft and pass such a bill without needing another extension, but several outstanding issues have delayed that process. Among the issues that have held up spending talks are how to fund access to private sector care through the Veterans Affairs Department and spending on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Congressional leadership is also seeking a compromise agreement on COVID-19 relief funds to attach to the omnibus bill. While momentum has grown for a $900 billion package unveiled with bipartisan, bicameral support last week, hurdles remain over liability protections for businesses that Senate Republicans have insisted be included in the agreement.
Leadership in both parties have said pandemic relief is a “must-pass” item before Congress adjourns for the year. Their aim is to link the relief package with the forthcoming omnibus bill, raising the possibility of a shutdown next week as House Democrats and Senate Republicans remain significantly divided on the details of the stimulus funds. While Sanders withdrew his objection to the CR to avoid a shutdown Friday, he vowed to do whatever it took to ensure Congress approves stimulus checks by the next deadline.
“If I have anything to say about it, and I do, we will not go home for the Christmas holidays unless we make sure we provide for the millions of families in this country who are suffering," he said.
Update: This story has been updated to reflect that Trump signed the bill on Friday evening.