Congress passes two-day funding measure to avoid government shutdown

With negotiations on federal funding and coronavirus relief measures still pending, Congress approved a two-day stopgap bill on Friday that pushed back the deadline for an agreement until midnight on Sunday.

According to The Washington Times, the two-day spending resolution was approved by the House with a vote of 320-60, signaling broad bipartisan support to avoid another government shutdown.

Shutdown crisis averted … for the weekend

Roll Call reported that the short-term stopgap measure was sent to the Senate after being passed by the House. After some initial threats of delay, the bill was eventually passed by the Senate with a simple voice vote.

The purpose of the two-day extension of the deadline to reach a deal was to provide more time for negotiators to iron out any remaining differences in the estimated $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that will fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year.

Complicating matters further is the fact that the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill Congress has been negotiating for months has now been attached to the broader spending bill, placing added pressure on all parties involved to find a compromise as quickly as possible.

“I believe all sides feel we’re making good progress,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said after the Senate approved the extension, according to Roll Call. “But alas, we are not there yet.”

Direct assistance to Americans

The Senate narrowly averted a potential crisis as two senators initially threatened to block the short-term measure.

Coming from the populist right and left, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) threatened to delay the stopgap bill unless $1,200 direct payments to American workers and families were included in the pandemic relief measure.

Both senators eventually backed off and allowed the temporary extension to proceed after receiving assurances that direct payments of some amount, though likely not $1,200, will be included in the COVID relief package. As of now, the direct payments look to be in the range of around $600.

Trump signs off on extension

President Donald Trump signed the brief two-day extension of the deadline late Friday night after it cleared both chambers of Congress.

This was actually the second such short-term extension that has been passed and signed in a week, with the previous extension being passed last Friday. The Times noted that Congress and the federal government has been operating on stopgap funding since the last omnibus spending deal expired in October.

As Congress faced the end of the brief extension, McConnell said Sunday morning that lawmakers are “really, really close” to finalizing an agreement.

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