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Senate ends debate on stopgap funding bill, final vote Wednesday

Continuing resolution gives Congress until Dec. 11 to reach agreement on nearly $1.4 trillion in funding

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conducts a news conference on Sept. 9, 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conducts a news conference on Sept. 9, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Tuesday voted to limit debate on short-term agency spending through Dec. 11, clearing the way for a final vote Wednesday that could bump up fairly close to a midnight deadline to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The 82-6 cloture vote signals that the continuing resolution is all but certain to clear the Senate and go to President Donald Trump’s desk for his likely signature. He might have very little time to do so, if any senators decide to chew up all 30 hours of post-cloture debate. 

It wasn’t clear yet whether any amendments — such as a spending cut proposal Rand Paul, R-Ky., typically offers — would come up for a vote. 

The House passed the stopgap bill by an overwhelming 359-57 vote last week, amid grumbling on both sides of the aisle about lack of progress on full-year spending bills. None of the dozen fiscal 2021 bills have become law, so the CR is needed to tide agencies over until lawmakers reconvene after the elections for a lame-duck session.

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The temporary measure gives appropriators and congressional leaders until Dec. 11 to reach agreement on nearly $1.4 trillion in funding spread throughout the 12 bills. If they are unable to do that, it’s likely Congress will pass another temporary measure into the new calendar year.

The short-term bill, as is typical, includes a slew of add-ons that will continue programs and authorizations that were set to lapse at the end of the fiscal year. The National Flood Insurance Program and the surface transportation program are among those on the list.

It also includes several changes to spending levels and programs known as anomalies, such as $1.6 billion that will allow the Department of Defense to begin building a dozen new Columbia-class nuclear-missile submarines.

Negotiators resolved a brief skirmish over farm and food aid, after House Democratic leaders pulled their support for early replenishment of depleted Commodity Credit Corporation funds in an initial version they planned to vote on.

After an outcry from farm-state lawmakers in both parties, Democrats agreed to put the CCC language back in. They also extracted concessions from the GOP that boosted the total for low-income nutrition programs from less than $3 billion in earlier talks to more than $8 billion in the current version.

While the nutrition programs cause the overall package to increase deficits, Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., isn’t expected to raise a point of order against consideration, according to sources familiar with his thinking.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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