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UPDATE 2-Fiscal 2020 domestic spending bill passes in U.S. Senate

Richard Cowan

(Updates with Senate passage)

WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate, rushing to meet a looming deadline, passed legislation on Thursday to fund an array of domestic programs through Sept. 30 in a bid to prevent government agency shutdowns when existing funds expire at the end of this week.

The Senate voted 71-23 to approve the bill, which is one of two massive fiscal 2020 spending measures it hopes to pass. The measure now goes to President Donald Trump for signing into law.

With a Christmas recess due to begin, the Senate passed the measure that would appropriate new money for an array of domestic programs run by departments including Agriculture, Labor and Energy. The bill also funds U.S. foreign aid programs.

A separate national security bill, which includes $738 billion in military funding, also was slated to be debated and passed in the Senate later in the day.

Together, the two bills would provide $1.4 trillion in spending for these so-called "discretionary" programs that are separate from "mandatory" programs like Social Security retirement benefits, which are automatically funded.

The $1.4 trillion is up from $1.36 trillion last year.

The two bills contain a series of new initiatives, including the funding for President Donald Trump's military Space Force, raising the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 from the current 18, and repealing some taxes that were intended to fund the Affordable Care Act health insurance, popularly known as Obamacare.

The higher government spending, coupled with tax cuts enacted in 2017 that reduce government revenues, are contributing to a rapidly rising U.S. national debt that now stands at $23.1 trillion, a level that some experts fear could eventually hobble the economy.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)