House lawmakers took time away from the ongoing impeachment inquiry on Tuesday to pass a stopgap funding bill – giving negotiators through Dec. 20 to try to hash out details of more than $1.4 trillion worth of unfinished spending legislation and avert a holiday-season government shutdown.
The bill, which has been overshadowed by the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump, passed 231-192.
Bill sponsor Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said last week that the measure “is necessary to keep government open as we work towards completing the appropriations process.”
The measure contains an assortment of technical provisions to ensure spending on the decennial U.S. Census can ramp up despite delays in the agency’s full-year funding bill. It also reverses a planned cut in highway spending next year and offers greater assurances about funding a 3.1 percent pay raise for the military that takes effect Jan. 1.
It also extends surveillance-related provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that expire Dec. 15 for another three months, including a provision allowing the government to gain access to business records and conduct roving wiretaps of people trying to duck surveillance.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already vowed that the Senate will pass the measure by Thursday and said President Trump has indicated he’ll sign it. Trump sparked last winter’s record 35-day partial shutdown amid a battle over his long-promised border wall.
Trump’s demands for wall funding are once again at the center of the debate over funding the government, and the issue is the main roadblock in wrapping up this year’s round of spending bills.
At issue is follow-on legislation to implement the details of this summer’s hard-won budget agreement, which distributed budget increases to the Pentagon and domestic agencies. Democrats are complaining that wall funding demands mean shortchanging programs like health care and education.
Talks to break the gridlock on appropriations have sputtered. Efforts to win additional funding above this summer’s budget deal for Democratic priorities have been rejected by the White House.
“We’re still talking but we have some impediments,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “Seems like we make a step, couple steps positive and then sideways and then a step backwards.”
“With bipartisan, bicameral cooperation, we can safely fund the federal government through mid-December so talks can continue,” McConnell said. “And then, with more cooperation, we can reach agreement on allocations and pass as many of the 12 appropriations bills as possible before the end of the year.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.