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Senate passes spending bill, sets stage for tax cut signing

  • The Senate passes an emergency funding bill to keep the federal government open through January 19
  • President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill just hours before Friday's midnight deadline
  • The bill also allows Trump to sign the GOP tax bill immediately, instead of waiting until the New Year
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accompanied by members of the Republican Conference, speaks at a news conference about the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017.
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accompanied by members of the Republican Conference, speaks at a news conference about the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017.

An emergency spending bill to fund the government through January 19 passed the Senate Thursday by a vote of 66-32, and advanced to President Donald Trump's desk for signature.

The Senate vote was the final hurdle facing legislation that will avert a partial government shutdown slated to begin at midnight on Friday. The bill passed the House of Representatives earlier in the day.

Known as a continuing resolution, or CR, the measure contains $2.85 billion for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program, and another $750 million for diabetes programs and community health centers. It also extends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program known as FISA 702, and provides an additional $4.7 billion to the Department of Defense for ship repair and missile defense programs.

'Pay-Go'

The most contentious part of the spending bill is what's called a "pay-go" waiver: A provision to suspend rules that bar the government from enacting expensive new programs, like the GOP tax cuts, unless there is enough money in the current year's budget to pay for them.

Now that the CR has passed the Senate, President Donald Trump can sign the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax bill as early as Friday, instead of having to wait until 2018.

The Senate is expected to adjourn for the Christmas holiday as soon as voting is over.

No disaster recovery help

One thing the Senate did not do Thursday, however, was to pass an $81 billion disaster recovery assistance package approved by the House earlier in the day.

The supplemental disaster relief bill is intended to help those Americans affected by the devastating hurricanes and wildfires that ripped through the South and West in recent months.

But Senate Majority Leader John Cornyn said the disaster funding bill was too complicated to finish and pass before the holiday recess. The bill, he said, involved "a lot more moving parts, a lot more varied interests, [and] competition between various jurisdictions over who gets what."

Trump is expected to sign both the CR and the tax bill Friday, before departing for Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida.