Senate approves bill to avoid shutdown, sending it to Trump


WASHINGTON — By a sweeping bipartisan vote Wednesday, the Senate sent President Donald Trump a bill to fund the government through Dec. 11, averting the possibility of a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts Thursday.

Trump was still flying back to Washington late after a campaign rally in Minnesota. The White House has yet to announce he has signed the measure.

But there was no immediate impact if the bill wasn’t signed into law by the midnight Wednesday deadline.

On Wednesday evening, the White House budget office sent instructions to agencies about what to do it Trump did not sign the stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, in Washington-speak. As in past episodes in which the government experienced a brief funding lapse, any post-midnight lapse would have no immediate effects on federal operations.

“We expect the President to sign the bill shortly. However, it is possible that he will not be able to sign it until tomorrow, October 1,” said an Office of Management and Budget memorandum issued to agencies. “It is longstanding OMB practice to instruct agencies to operate in a normal manner (and not engage in shutdown activities) if we have a high level of confidence that the President will sign a new CR on the day following the expiration of a CR.”

The temporary extension will set the stage for a lame-duck session of Congress later this year, where the agenda will be largely determined by the outcome of the presidential election.

The measure would keep the government running through Dec. 11 and passed by a 84-10 vote. The House passed the bill last week.

The stopgap spending bill is required because the GOP-controlled Senate has not acted on any of the 12 annual spending bills that fund the 30% of the government’s budget that is passed by Congress each year. If Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the White House in November, it’s likely that another stopgap measure would fund the government into next year and that the next administration and Congress would deal with the leftover business.

The measure is the bare minimum accomplishment for Capitol Hill’s powerful Appropriations committees, who pride themselves on their deal-making abilities despite gridlock in other corners of Congress.

The legislation — called a continuing resolution, or CR, in Washington-speak — would keep every federal agency running at current funding levels through Dec. 11, which will keep the government afloat past an election that could reshuffle Washington’s balance of power.

The measure also extends many programs whose funding or authorizations lapse on Sept. 30, including the federal flood insurance program, highway and transit programs, and a long set of extensions of various health programs, such as a provision to prevent Medicaid cuts to hospitals that serve many poor people.

It also finances the possible transition to a new administration if Biden wins the White House and would stave off an unwelcome COVID-caused increase in Medicare Part B premiums for outpatient doctor visits.

Farm interests won language that would permit Trump’s farm bailout to continue without fear of interruption. In exchange, House Democrats won $8 billion in food aid for the poor.

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