WASHINGTON, D.C. Congress passed on Friday morning a stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown at midnight and give lawmakers another week to reach a deal on federal spending through the end of the fiscal year, with contentious issues remaining to be resolved.The Senate passed the measure by voice vote without opposition after the House earlier approved it by a tally of 382-30. The measure now goes to President Donald Trump to sign into law.The bill in the Republican-led Congress provides federal funding until May 5, allowing lawmakers to hammer out legislation over the next few days to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the stopgap bill “will carry us through next week so that a bipartisan agreement can be reached.”Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said there were still significant differences with Republicans over elements of the looming longer-term spending bill.In the bigger spending bill to be negotiated in the coming days, it remained unclear whether Republicans would prevail in their effort to sharply boost defense spending without similar increases for other domestic programs. Trump has proposed a $30 billion increase for the Pentagon for the rest of this fiscal year, an agency that has suffered cuts and little financial focus from Washington over the past eight years.House and Senate negotiators also have been struggling over funding to make a healthcare program for coal miners permanent and whether to plug a gap in Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, the government health insurance program for the poor.’IMPORTANT BUSINESS’During debate in the House, lawmakers expressed frustration at the inability of Congress to take care of the basic functions of government in a timely manner.”Let’s make sure these basics are done for the American people and then let’s get about the important business of changing their tax code and making sure they have the best healthcare in the world,” said Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma.”We are seven months into the fiscal year,” added Representative Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “Federal departments and agencies have been operating on outdated funding levels and policies for more than half of the year. This is unacceptable and it cannot continue.”Lowey noted the legislation, known as a continuing resolution, was the third stopgap spending measure during the current fiscal year.In addition to opposition from Democrats, there are deep divisions among Republicans over exactly how to change the tax code and overhaul the U.S. healthcare system.The action on the spending bill came a day after House Republican leaders again put on hold a possible vote on major healthcare legislation sought by Trump to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, after moderates in the party balked at provisions added to entice hard-line conservatives.Trump organically said that he wanted a down payment on construction of the wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico, but said he would instead focus on getting that funding into the more permanent spending bill to fund government operations until September 30. The wall was a centerpiece of his presidential campaign saying it’s needed to fight illegal immigration and stop drug smugglers.The Trump administration also agreed to include continued funding for a major component of Obamacare in the temporary spending bill while details are negotiated on how to repeal and replace the program.Without the extension or a longer-term funding bill, federal agencies would have run out of money by midnight Friday, likely triggering abrupt layoffs of some “non-essential” federal government workers until funding resumes.Reuters News Service contributed to this report.
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