By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to advance a temporary funding bill to keep the government open through Dec. 11, with final passage of the measure expected on the deadline, Wednesday.
Government funding runs out at midnight Wednesday. The legislation, if passed by then and signed into law by President Donald Trump, would maintain current funding levels for most programs, avoiding a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic and weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. election.
The Senate voted 82-6 on a procedural motion to advance the temporary funding bill, with all six no votes cast by Republicans.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the measure a week ago after Democrats struck a deal with the White House and Republicans on farmers’ aid and nutritional assistance for children.
Senate Democrats acknowledged they had stretched out action on the stopgap bill in recent days as part of their protest against Senate Republicans’ rush to approve a new Supreme Court nominee weeks before the presidential election. But a Senate Democratic aide also said Democrats would “ensure the government will not shut down.”
The bill generally maintains current spending levels and gives lawmakers more time to work out budget details for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30 2021, including for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.
The legislation’s Dec. 11 end date will require Congress to return to the government funding question again during its post-election lame-duck session, after what is likely to be a bruising fight to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
Congressional Democrats have had a stormy relationship with the White House over federal funding since Trump took office early in 2017, disagreeing over the president’s demands for billions of dollars to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and a range of other domestic priorities.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)