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US Senate okays stopgap spending bill but denies more funds for Trump's wall
THE US Senate on Wednesday night approved an emergency short-term spending bill that averts a looming government shutdown, but excludes the US$5 billion that President Donald Trump sought for a US-Mexico border wall.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the measure will fund normal government operations at current levels through Feb 8 - bringing Washington a step closer to avoiding a potentially crippling closure of some federal offices over the Christmas holiday.
The bill, which cleared the Senate by voice vote, will need to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Mr Trump before midnight on Friday, when funding is set to expire for key agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.
Republican and Democratic leaders gave strong signals that the stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, would pass Congress and land on the president's desk.
"It's good that our Republican colleagues in the Senate finally realised 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," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said upon the bill clearing the Senate.
White House aides told US media that Mr Trump is inclined to sign the measure.
But it is seen as a defeat for the president, who had argued strenuously for new funding for a wall that he insists would check illegal immigration.
Mr Trump essentially abandoned his position from last week, when he told Democrats he would be "proud" to shutter government over border security.
The six-week deal would temporarily break an impasse over spending and border security, as Democrats and Republicans continue to clash over immigration.
It comes a day after Democratic leaders rejected a longer-term Republican offer that would have increased border security.
Once Democrats take House control next month, they will be loath to greenlight more money to Mr Trump for his wall.
The president has fumed about Democrats not giving in, and he ranted about it again on Wednesday.
"In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death," he tweeted.
"We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!"
Mr McConnell's pragmatic move belied his irritation over what he called "Democrats' allergy to sensible immigration policies".
"It seems like political spite for the president may be winning out over sensible policy," he said.
Some congressional conservatives complained about Mr McConnell's manoeuvre - including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who lamented the bill's passage. "This is a missed opportunity to deliver on the promises made to the American people," he said.
House Republican Mark Meadows had also said there was no excuse to back down on wall funding.
Punting the issue to Feb 8 gives Democrats a "Christmas present", tweeted Mr Meadows, who chairs the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
"Democrats will win, the wall will not be built, and Congress will once again have punted when we should've been taking a stand." AFP