Senate Advances Stopgap Bill to Avert Government Shutdown

September 29, 2020 Updated: September 29, 2020

The U.S. Senate voted to advance a short-term spending bill on Tuesday to extend funding to the government through Dec. 11. The final passage of the bill is expected before the new budget year starts on Thursday.

The Senate voted 82-6 to advance the bill. The six no votes were cast by Republicans.

The legislation would avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1 if passed and signed into law by President Donald Trump. It would maintain current funding levels for most programs, dealing with some 30 percent of the federal government’s day-to-day budget. This would allow appropriators and congressional leaders until Dec. 11 to work out budget details dealing with 12 annual spending bills for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, 2021. The discussions concern nearly $1.4 trillion in funding, reported Roll Call.

The House of Representatives approved the bill last week after having reached a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It includes nearly $8 billion in nutrition assistance for children who normally receive school lunches amid the widespread shutdown of schools as a result of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. The bill passed the House by a 359-57 vote.

The bill that Democrats had initially introduced prior to the agreement with the White House did not include the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) program providing aid to farmers, something the Trump administration wanted. The latest agreement would keep payments flowing through the CCC program while adding on accountability measures.

The short-term spending bill advanced while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued their discussions on a COVID-19 aid bill. Pelosi’s office said that she and Mnuchin spoke on Tuesday for about 50 minutes and plan further talks on Wednesday.

“The two went over the provisions of the updated Heroes Act and agreed to speak again tomorrow,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said on Twitter.

Pelosi said in a televised interview earlier on Monday that Mnuchin “has to come back with much more money to get the job done. So I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic.”

She told reporters, “I’m hopeful,” on Tuesday when asked whether agreement on additional COVID-19 funding could be reached this week.

The House released an update to its $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on Monday. An earlier version of the bill had sought $3.4 trillion in relief funding.

The latest bill, scaled back by more than $1 trillion, includes $1,200 direct payments to individuals and $500 per dependent—down from the $1,200 for dependents in the first version of the bill.

It would scale back an aid package to state and local governments to $436 billion and send $225 billion to colleges and universities.

Pelosi has not moved on one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) key demands—liability protection for business owners, schools, and universities that reopen amid the pandemic.

“As the nation continues fighting this pandemic and parts of our economy begin to emerge from shutdown, Senate and House Republicans are united in our demand that health care workers, small businesses, and other Americans on the front lines of this fight must receive strong protections from frivolous lawsuits,” McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a joint statement in May.

“Senate and House Republicans agree these protections will be absolutely essential to future discussions surrounding recovery legislation,” they added.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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