US Congress averts shutdown, sends Trump two-week spending stopgap

US Congress averts shutdown, sends Trump two-week spending stopgap

US Congress
US Senate leaders have agreed to vote on Thursday on competing proposals to end a government shutdown now in its second month. (AFP Photo)

WASHINGTON: The US Congress approved a two-week funding extension on Thursday (Dec 6), averting a looming partial government shutdown but setting up a potentially bitter spending showdown just days before the Christmas holiday.

Lawmakers had until midnight on Friday to fund several federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, and a major battle had been brewing over President Donald Trump's desire for billions of dollars in border wall spending.

But in light of the death of ex-president George H.W. Bush, and the related memorial events in Washington, lawmakers came together to approve a short-term stopgap until Dec 21, allowing additional time for negotiations and debate.

The House and Senate each passed the extension by voice vote on Thursday, and Trump is expected to sign it.

The budget battle in the waning days of 2018 will focus squarely on Trump's demand for US$5 billion in funding for the wall that he has pledged to build along the US border with Mexico.

After losing the House in midterm elections last month, Republicans see the coming two weeks as the final opportunity to secure wall funding before Democrats take control of the chamber on Jan 3.

Democrats have said they are in no mood to negotiate over Trump's wall, arguing that US$1.6 billion in broader border security funding is sufficient.

"Let me be clear: the US$1.6 billion cannot be used to construct any part of President Trump's 30-foot-tall (nine-meter) concrete border wall," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

"It can only be used for fencing, using technology currently deployed at the border, and only where the experts say fencing is appropriate and makes sense as a security feature."

Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are expected to meet with Trump next week at the White House.

Source: AFP/de