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Senate likely to pass resolution keeping gov’t, Pentagon running until December

The U.S. Capitol Building at dusk on Jan. 20, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Edelman/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)
September 29, 2020

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday scheduled a procedural vote to advance a stopgap funding measure that will avert a government shutdown and keep the government funded through December 11.

The procedural vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET and would limit debate on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded for about two and a half months. According to CNN, if the Tuesday procedural vote passes, the stopgap funding measure will head to a final vote on Wednesday, with hours to spare before government funding expires at midnight on Thursday.

The continuing resolution, HR-8337, crafted after an agreement reached between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, was passed in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on a vote of 359-57 and is headed to the Republican-controlled Senate. The measure is likely to pass in the Senate, which voted 92-3 last week on a procedural motion to begin consideration of the measure.

The continuing resolution keeps most government departments and programs, including the Department of Defense, funded at the same levels set in the 2020 fiscal year. With the continued funding, the U.S. Navy may also enter into a contract “for the procurement of up to two Columbia class submarines,” for an amount not to exceed $1,620,270,000.

Defense News reported that while the continuing resolution funds the Navy submarines, it leaves off White House funding requests for the newly formed U.S. Space Force and for nuclear weapons programs.

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The funding measure also extends several Department of Veterans Affairs authorities related to veterans’ benefits, including to provide nursing home care for some veterans with service-related disabilities and other authorities related to administering veteran benefits.

If passed, the continuing resolution would avert a potential government shutdown until after the November elections.

The Senate’s opportunity to pass the continuing resolution and avoid a government shutdown comes as the Senate is also set to take up confirmation hearings to consider Judge Amy Coney Barrett, as President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, left open by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Republican Senators have shared support for Barrett’s confirmation, but Senate Democrats have shown opposition to the nomination.

Democrats have criticized the Republican move to confirm a new Supreme Court justice with weeks to go before the presidential election as hypocritical because Republicans refused to similarly hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland when he was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2016 to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer invoked a “Two-hour Rule,” which can limit the ability of the Senate to hold committee hearings beyond two hours, The Hill reported.

“Because the Senate Republicans have no respect for the institution, we won’t have business as usual here in the Senate,” Schumer said at the time.

The Hill reported Democrat leaders are not interested in using a potential shutdown as leverage to slow the Senate confirmation process for the Supreme Court seat.

“Well, none of us has any interest in shutting down government,” Pelosi said. “That — that has such a harmful and painful impact on so many people in our country. So I would hope that we can just proceed with that. There is some enthusiasm among some, exuberance on the left to say let’s use that, but we’re not going to be shutting down government.”