Senate passes stopgap resolution to avoid government shutdown

The Senate has passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until February to avoid a government shutdown just before Christmas.
Image: Senate Democratic and Republican leaderships agree to fund the federal government
Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell, from center, is followed by members of the news media as he walks from the Senate floor to his office on Capitol Hill on December 19, 2018.Michael Reynolds / EPA

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By Doha Madani and Frank Thorp V

The Senate has passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until February in an effort to avoid a partial shutdown just before Christmas.

The resolution, a short-term spending bill at current fiscal year levels, passed with a voice vote in the Senate on Wednesday. If it is approved by the House, which is expected to take the measure up Thursday, and signed by President Donald Trump, it will keep large parts of the government funded until Feb. 8.

If Trump and Congress are unable to agree on a funding bill by Dec. 21, large parts of the federal government could run out of operating authority after Friday.

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The Senate bill, which was introduced by Republicans on Wednesday morning, does not include $5 billion in funding for the border wall that Trump demanded from Congress.

Trump proclaimed in an Oval Office meeting with top congressional Democratic leaders last week that he would be "proud" to shut down part of the government in service of forcing Congress to give him the full $5 billion he wants for a border wall.

The administration appeared to soften its stance on Tuesday when White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Fox News, "At the end of the day we don't want to shut down the government."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Wednesday evening after the vote that "the president’s wall is ineffective, expensive, and only serves as a political bone to his most conservative supporters."

“It’s good that our Republican colleagues in the Senate finally realized that they should not shut down the government over a wall that does not have enough support to pass the House or Senate and is not supported by a majority of the country," the New York senator said in his statement.

At one point, as senators gathered ahead of the vote Wednesday night, a group of Democrats began singing Christmas carols on the Senate floor.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, and Tim Kaine of Virginia were among the Democrats who sang "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "O, Holy Night," and "Winter Wonderland."

“I love Christmas carols! I was in the choir,” Sen Harris said as she left the floor after the vote.