The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Senate passes stopgap spending bill to keep government open through Nov. 21, sending measure to Trump

The bipartisan vote comes despite partisan clashes elsewhere in the Capitol as House Democrats pursue an impeachment inquiry of the president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others walk to a closed-door security briefing on Iran at the Capitol on Wednesday. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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The Senate passed a stopgap spending bill Thursday to keep the government open through Nov. 21, punting tough decisions about President Trump’s border wall and other funding disputes until just before Thanksgiving.

The 82-15 vote came days before the Sept. 30 deadline when government funding would expire if Congress didn’t act. The House passed the same measure last week, so the Senate’s passage of the short-term spending bill means it will now go to Trump for his signature. He is expected to sign it.

The stopgap bill is aimed at giving lawmakers more time to finalize $1.4 trillion worth of full-year spending bills for fiscal 2020, which ends Sept. 30, 2020. The bipartisan vote on the spending measure came despite a Capitol in chaos over House Democrats’ new impeachment inquiry of Trump and a whistleblower complaint against Trump related to a call he had with the president of Ukraine.

Like last year, when Congress denied Trump some of the money he was seeking for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, border barrier funding remains a major sticking point in budget talks. Democrats oppose Trump’s $5 billion request for the wall and offered an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday to block the money. But the amendment was defeated. Lawmakers will have to continue negotiating the issue before the short-term spending package expires in November.

Last winter, the dispute over the wall ended up in a 35-day partial government shutdown.

This year, there are also unresolved divisions on other issues, including how much money should be devoted to domestic programs championed by Democrats, as opposed to Pentagon operations that are a priority for Republicans.

The disputes have arisen even though lawmakers and the administration came together over the summer to agree on a sweeping two-year deal that set top-line budget numbers and suspended the debt ceiling until after the 2020 election.

It remains uncertain how Democrats’ impeachment inquiry will affect budget talks, but Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said this week that the result could be additional short-term “continuing resolutions” like the one passed Thursday — instead of a bipartisan deal on new spending levels.

Shelby said he is meeting with Trump on Friday to discuss how to move forward with the appropriations process.

“My message is a discussion about where we are and how we can move these bills,” Shelby told reporters at the Capitol Thursday. “Where we are, and where we think we could go. Listen to him, too.”

With the start of the 2020 fiscal year days away, Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 spending bills that must be signed into law annually. Funding the government is Congress’ must basic task but the process often descends into dysfunction, a reality lamented by lawmakers of both parties, who tend to blame each other for the mess.