Congress passes bill to avoid shutdown

The US Congress has passed stopgap legislation to avert a government shutdown 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.

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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 September 30.

Congress has been tied in knots over $1 trillion in spending priorities for months. Lawmakers were supposed to have taken care of the current fiscal year appropriations bills by last October 1.

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 defence spending without similar increases for other domestic programs. Trump has proposed a $30 billion spending hike for the Pentagon for the rest of this fiscal year.

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.