Congress passes another stopgap spending bill, averting shutdown

The House and Senate Thursday approved a temporary spending bill, avoiding a government shutdown that would have kept lawmakers in the nation's capital for Christmas.

The House approved the legislation, known as a continuing resolution, by a vote of 231-188. The Senate followed just over two hours later, passing the measure 66-32. Senate Democrats from Republican-leaning states provided many of the key votes. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure.

The continuing resolution funds the government through Jan. 19. A two-week continuing resolution passed by Congress earlier this month expires at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

The stopgap legislation means that a number of key issues will face Congress when it returns in January -- most notably the question of what to do about immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and are enrolled in the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Trump ended the program in September, giving Congress a March deadline to furnish a legislative fix.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi vowed earlier this month that lawmakers "will not leave here" without an agreement to protect so-called "Dreamers" from deportation. On Thursday, she told the House Rules Committee that the young immigrants in the program "embody the best in our nation: patriotism, hard work, perseverance."

"We should not leave them to celebrate the holidays in fear," Pelosi added.

Trump and Republicans are pushing for additional border security and other immigration enforcement steps in any DACA agreement.

"The vast majority of Republicans want to see a DACA solution," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters. "They just want to see a DACA solution that's balanced."

The continuing resolution -- the third stopgap bill since Oct. 1 -- includes a $2.1 billion fix for an expiring program that pays for veterans to seek care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system; a temporary fix to ensure states facing shortfalls from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) won't have to purge children from the program, and a short-term extension for an expiring overseas wiretapping program aimed at tracking terrorists.

GOP lawmakers insisted the legislation was crucial to keep operations running and give negotiators more time to finalize a spending blueprint.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said the legislation was essential for the "stability of our economy, and the security and well-being of the American people."

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., called the result "an epic failure of governing," adding "the Republican majority has made a complete mess of the basics of governing."

Among Republicans, opposition to the temporary measure came mostly from the party's defense hawks, who had hoped to enact record increases for the military this year and force the Senate to debate a full-year, $658 billion defense spending measure. But that idea was a nonstarter with the Senate, especially Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will only agree to Pentagon increases if domestic programs get a comparable hike.

The short-term spending bill does contain about $5 billion to upgrade missile defenses to respond to the threat from North Korea and to repair two destroyers damaged in accidents this year in the Pacific.

The legislation also has a provision to turn off automatic cuts to many "mandatory" spending programs, including Medicare, that would otherwise be triggered by the tax cut bill. Democrats had sought to highlight the looming spending cuts in arguing against a $1.5 trillion tax package that passed both houses of Congress without a single Democratic vote.

The House also passed an $81 billion measure to deliver rebuilding aid to hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean as well as fire-ravaged states. However, the Senate declined to take up the bill before leaving for its Christmas recess.

"Democrats want to make sure that we have equal bargaining," said Schumer, "and we're not going to allow things like disaster relief go forward without discussing some of the other issues we care about."

Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.