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Government shutdown averted as Senate OKs stopgap budget, defense package

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 12/11/2020 Victor Reklaitis
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In a quick voice vote, the Senate on Friday afternoon passed a one-week spending bill that would prevent a partial federal government shutdown from starting at midnight, sending the measure to President Donald Trump so he can sign it into law.

The Republican-run chamber also voted 84-13 to approve an annual defense bill, more than the two-thirds required to override a potential presidential veto.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky had objected late Thursday to the National Defense Authorization Act, raising the prospect of a shutdown because the short-term spending bill that would keep the government funded was caught up in the dispute. But Paul told CNN on Friday morning that he would let the spending measure go forward and had just wanted to “hold things up for a day” on the NDAA.

Another hurdle for the spending bill went away on Friday afternoon, as Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the independent and former Democratic presidential hopeful, said they wouldn’t object to it. Hawley and Sanders had been calling for attaching an amendment to the legislation that would provide $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans.

“I am prepared to withdraw my objection at this moment, but I will not be prepared to withdraw an objection next week,” Sanders said on the Senate floor.

Related: Trump pushes for $600 stimulus checks as Democrats press for double that


Video: McConnell urges Congress to 'pass the things that we agree on' for Covid relief (NBC News)

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Kentucky Republican, on Friday morning urged his fellow senators to pass the spending bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, and he called for approval of the defense bill and COVID-19 relief.

“The Senate needs to pass a stopgap funding measure today to prevent a lapse while the bipartisan, bicameral efforts close in on a full-year funding bill, and we need to advance what will be the 60th annual defense authorization bill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

The majority leader repeated his call for a COVID relief package that has no liability shield and no state and local aid. He said: “I propose setting aside both liability protections and state and local bailouts and making law where we can agree.” But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, again rejected that offer.

Read more: COVID relief talks remain stuck in Congress over state aid, liability

And see: Fight over workplace lawsuits trips up COVID relief — more than 100 organizations have lobbied on the issue

The Democratic-run House already has passed the one-week spending bill and the defense measure. The House approved the NDAA on Tuesday in a 335-78 vote, also more than enough votes to override a presidential veto.

Trump has threatened a veto unless lawmakers clamp down on social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter that he claims were biased against him during the election. But his push for that looks doomed, given the vote tallies in the House and Senate.

The extensive defense bill delivers 3% pay raises for American troops and unlocks more than $740 billion for training, gear and construction. Paul said his objections to the NDAA had to do with how it could limit Trump’s ability to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and Germany.

The main U.S. stock gauges were mostly losing ground on Friday afternoon, though the Dow Jones Industrial Average had turned higher. The benchmarks are all on track for weekly losses, after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed at record levels on Tuesday.

Now read: Here’s what Joe Biden’s first 100 days could mean for health care, energy and more key sectors

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