President Donald Trump on Thursday approved a measure that would stave off the threat of a government shutdown until just days before Christmas, buying Washington additional time to negotiate a bitter dispute over border security.
The short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, was signed into law just hours before a critical midnight deadline. Federal funding was scheduled to expire after that point, and several federal agencies would have been forced to shutter.
But it will keep the government running only until December 20, leaving the White House and Congress limited legislative days to debate the billions of dollars Trump has demanded for the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
“We do not want a shutdown of government,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference this week. “We prefer to not have a continuing resolution. So we have to make some decisions as we go forward.”
An impasse over that project, which Democrats have refused to provide any funding for, led to the longest government shutdown on record at the beginning of the year. In moves that were later challenged in federal court, Trump eventually declared a national emergency and diverted money from the Pentagon to fund the border wall.
While the Trump administration and Democrats were able to forge a compromise on top-line budget numbers in July, they have remained broadly divided over how to distribute the $1.4 trillion package since the start of the fiscal year in October.
Border-funding issues were avoided in a stopgap measure signed on Thursday, but other major provisions were tucked in. The legislation reauthorizes parts of the Patriot Act through March, raises the pay for members of the military by about 3%, and increases the Commerce Department budget ahead of the 2020 census.
The funding deadline this week came as key witnesses continued to testify in a high-profile impeachment inquiry against Trump, which stemmed from a whistleblower complaint that said he pressured Ukraine to investigate a 2020 campaign rival.
Between that and partisan standoffs, some lawmakers have braced for the possibility that a budget for the full fiscal year might not be reached anytime soon. Failure to reach an agreement on the 12 appropriations bills needed for that annual funding package could instead leave Congress with a number of continuing resolutions throughout the year.
“I am hopeful that we can reach a resolution soon so we can provide government agencies — our military, in particular — the funding and flexibility they need to operate efficiently and effectively,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby.
The Senate passed the continuing resolution 74-20 earlier on Thursday. At the beginning of the week, the House voted 231-192 to approve it.