WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown as the clock ticks down to an expiration of government funding that would trigger a shutdown if lawmakers and the President don’t act in time to prevent it.
The vote was 74-20.
Government funding expires at midnight on Thursday, and the bill will now go to President Donald Trump for his expected signature.
The House passed the short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, earlier in the week to extend funding through December 20.
As of Wednesday night, Senate Republican leaders were still working to relieve objections on their side of the aisle to components of the month-long continuing resolution to keep the government operating past the deadline when funding expires.
The holdup forced Senate leadership to abandon efforts to have a vote on the bill late Wednesday, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide. An agreement to hold a vote on Thursday was later reached.
“Nothing is easy,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the GOP Whip said on Wednesday, before adding that he was hopeful concerns about the bill would resolve as the deadline approaches Thursday and the threat of a shutdown becomes more real.
The push to keep the government funded comes as the House is in the midst of contentious and high-profile public impeachment inquiry hearings as part of an investigation into President Trump by House Democrats that has led to an escalation of partisan tensions on Capitol Hill.
Against the backdrop of the impeachment inquiry, lawmakers have not yet reached bipartisan agreement on the 12 regular annual appropriations bills needed to fund the government. The passage of another stop-gap measure will allow for more time to negotiate.
Congress already passed a short-term funding extension earlier in the year — at the end of September — that set up the impending funding deadline this week.
A dispute over funding for a wall at the US-Mexico border triggered a partial government shutdown last year that extended into the start of the new, 116th Congress with Democrats refusing to sign off on the President’s demand for his signature campaign promise. That shutdown broke the record for the longest government shutdown in US history.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters earlier in the week, “the wall, I think, is the major impediment” to getting funding issues resolved. Hoyer argued that other spending bills are “being held hostage essentially” as a result.
Ahead of the House’s passage of its stop-gap bill, Hoyer said, “I hope the Senate will quickly pass it and the President will sign it.”