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US Senate passes stopgap funding, bill heads to Trump

[WASHINGTON] The US Senate on Thursday passed a temporary spending bill that averts a government shutdown, sending the one-month measure to President Donald Trump's desk hours before federal funding was to expire at midnight.

The short-term bill only funds federal operations until December 20, meaning Congress will be forced to once again debate and pass fiscal year 2020 funding during a period of high tension in Washington.

Mr Trump is reportedly expected to sign the so-called continuing resolution, which passed the Senate by a vote of 74 to 20.

Congress has been unable to secure a long-term deal. Democrats and Republicans have negotiated for months, but they remain at odds over funding of Mr Trump's long-sought wall on the US border with Mexico, among other issues.

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With Washington consumed by the Trump impeachment inquiry, lawmakers have expressed concern about the ability to finalise a deal in the run up to the Christmas break.

But top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said shortly before Thursday's vote that he hopes Mr Trump, who has injected himself into budget negotiations before, "stays out of our way and gives Congress the space to work together and find an agreement."

The measure, which already passed the House, gives the US military a 3.1 per cent pay raise, funds the 2020 census, and keeps critical public health programmes going for another month.

Two government shutdowns have occurred during Mr Trump's administration, including a 35-day shutdown from late 2018 to early 2019 - the longest in US history - over disagreements on border security.

AFP