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U.S. Senate passes funding bill to avert government shutdown this week

Kitco News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed legislation that would continue the funding for a wide range of federal agencies through Dec. 20 and avoid partial government shutdowns that otherwise would begin on Friday, when existing money expires.

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 74-20. The legislation now goes to President Donald Trump for his expected approval, as the House of Representatives also passed this measure on Tuesday.

Between now and Dec. 20, House and Senate negotiators will seek agreement on how to divvy up money across all of the federal bureaucracy. They are hoping to come up with legislation to keep the government operating through Sept. 30, 2020, the end of this fiscal year.

But their work, already arduous, could be further complicated by the highly-charged impeachment investigation that Democrats are running in the House.

By December, the House could be in a full-blown debate over whether Trump should be removed from office for his actions related to Ukraine, in which he is suspected of withholding vital American aid as leverage in getting Kiev to launch investigations into one of the U.S. president’s political rivals.

Trump denies doing anything improper.

It is possible that the impeachment debate could be reaching a crescendo in the House just as the Dec. 20 deadline is nearing and when federal funding would again expire unless Congress and Trump reach a deal.

Much of the hang-up over the spending bills for the current fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, is over Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump made his pledge to build such a wall a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign for president, although at the time he assured voters that Mexico would pay for the construction - an idea Mexico has roundly rejected.

Having failed to convince Congress to grant him the money for his border wall, Trump has used “emergency” authority to shift funding from various projects to the wall, raising the ire of Democrats.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Susan Heavey and Steve Orlofsky

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