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US Senate passes stopgap to prevent government shutdown

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Oct 01, 2020 - 09:55 AM

WASHINGTON — The US Senate passed a budget bill Wednesday that avoids an imminent government shutdown and extends funding weeks beyond the November 3 presidential election, after Democrats reached a deal with the White House and Republicans.

The bipartisan text, which easily cleared the Senate 84 votes to 10 a week after it passed the House of Representatives, now goes to the White House.

President Donald Trump would need to sign the stop-gap measure by 11:59 pm Wednesday to avoid a partial government shutdown, as fiscal year 2021 technically begins on October 1.

The short-term legislation would keep government federal agencies operating at current funding levels until December 11, easing pressure on Congress — and presidential candidates Trump and Democrat Joe Biden — to address the issue during a heated election.

The measure adds nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for children and families, and extends funding for community health centers to continue to address Covid-19 and health disparities.

Last week on the day the measure cleared the House, the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

Separate from the federal budget, lawmakers are in the middle of negotiating a much-needed, trillion-dollar-plus relief package for thousands of communities and millions of families suffering during the pandemic.

Congress, which is deeply divided along party lines, would not likely have been able to reach a broader agreement on a new 2021 budget before the end of the fiscal year.

“I hope members of Congress can come back to the negotiating table in the coming weeks and work in a spirit of cooperation to pass a comprehensive funding bill,” Senate Republican Roger Wicker said.

“A continuing resolution is no substitute for a full appropriations package,” he added.

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