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Wednesday 18 September 2019

US Senate approves bill to keep government running into 2019

Donald Trump has previously demanded five billion dollars for a border wall with Mexico.

It comes after Donald Trump backed off his demand for money for the border wall (Evan Vucci/AP)
It comes after Donald Trump backed off his demand for money for the border wall (Evan Vucci/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

The US senate has approved legislation to temporarily fund the government, a key step toward averting a federal shutdown after President Donald Trump backed off his demand for money for a border wall with Mexico.

US senators passed the measure, which would keep the government running until February 8, by voice vote without a roll call.

The House is also expected to move before Friday’s deadline, when funding for a portion of the government expires.

Without resolution, more than 800,000 federal workers would face a leave of absence or be forced to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas.

While the White House indicated Mr Trump was open to reviewing whatever Congress could pass, the president did not immediately weigh in on the short-term plan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will remain in session on Thursday. “We have to see what the House does,” he said.

Many of Mr Trump’s supporters were frustrated that he appeared to retreat on his shutdown threats after promising a fight over the wall, which had been central to his presidential campaign.

Just last week Mr Trump said he would be “proud” to shut down the government over his demand for five billion dollars (£3.96 billion) for the wall.

Some allies described the move as caving on his pledge, expressing concern that it could hurt Mr Trump’s 2020 prospects.

Representative Mark Meadows, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Mr Trump’s political base “will just go crazy” if he signs a bill without wall funding.

He warned it will be tougher to win the money next year when Democrats control the House. He said supporters of the president “believe it’s a promise that he’s been telling them that he will keep”.

On Twitter, Mr Trump appeared to respond to criticism by insisting that “one way or the other, we will win on the Wall!”

Mr Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway also faced tough questioning on Fox & Friends, the morning show known to be one of Mr Trump’s favourites.

Host Brian Kilmeade said on Wednesday that Mr Trump has “no leverage,” while Ainsley Earhardt asked why Mr Trump was “softening” his position.

“The president is not softening his stance,” Ms Conway said. “He has a responsibility to keep the government moving forward, and he has a responsibility to get border security.”

Mr McConnell, though, portrayed the short-term spending measure as a “simple” bill that would show that Republicans, who control Congress now, will finish the year by not prolonging a potential crisis.

“Republicans will continue to fill our duty to govern,” he said.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

Voting was delayed until late on Wednesday as a bipartisan group of politicians, mostly from the West, sought to include language reauthorising a popular programme that supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund expired on September 30, and they have been trying to extend it, but no agreement was reached and talks will continue.

At one point late in the late evening, senators broke out in a round of Christmas carols from a corner of the chamber.

A few moments later, retiring Senator Jeff Flake gavelled a procedural vote closed by suggesting “Rudolph” had voted present.

It was unclear how many House members would return to Washington for votes after Republicans lost the majority in the midterm election.

Some 70 members missed Wednesday’s session, almost as many Democrats as Republicans.

With Republicans sour on the spending package, passage could depend on Democrats.

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