WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan spending measure early Thursday morning to keep the federal government running until after the presidential election in November.
The Senate passed the bill with hours to spare before a government shutdown. Trump signed the bill minutes after returning from Minnesota, where he held a campaign rally.
The overwhelming 84-10 vote marked a bipartisan push to keep the government funded in the midst of a pandemic that has left many Americans more reliant on the federal government.
The legislation passed hours before the annual spending bill would expire at midnight, leaving federal agencies without money to operate. It extends government funding levels until Dec. 11 – a month after the election.
Lawmakers added last-minute pandemic relief funding before the bill was approved in the House Sept. 22, which gave it bipartisan support. The bill includes billions for a farm bailout program pushed by Republicans as farmers continue to be affected by the Trump administration's trade policies and the pandemic's impact on agriculture. Democrats got more money – $8 billion – for pandemic food assistance programs for families.
The two additions marked the only pandemic-related relief in the bill. Though pressure has mounted for Congress to pass more COVID-19 relief, lawmakers have been at an impasse for months over the size and scope of an aid bill. Negotiations appeared all but dead, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have restarted talks.
House Democrats introduced another coronavirus bill Monday with a $2 trillion price tag. It is not likely to be considered by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The last government shutdown from December 2018 to January 2019 was the longest on record, at 35 days. Stemming from a standoff between Congress and the White House over funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border, it forced about 800,000 federal government workers to take furloughs or go without pay.
Sarah Binder, professor of political science at George Washington University and a Brookings Institution senior fellow, said it would be a “catastrophic blow” to have a shutdown in the middle of the pandemic, especially if workers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health were furloughed. COVID-19 has taken more than 206,000 American lives.
“Nobody really wants to be blamed for the government shutdown,” especially so close to an election, she said.
Contributing: Nicholas Wu
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump signs bill to avoid government shutdown