House approves spending bill to avert US government shut down

Chris Riotta

A temporary spending bill has been passed in the US to plug a shortfall in funding – and stave off a looming government shutdown.

The measure provides funding through to 21 December, as lawmakers continue to grapple with Donald Trump’s demands to provide billions of dollars in the next budget to build his campaign promise of a sprawling wall across the US-Mexico border.

Without the stop gap bill passed on Thursday by the US House of Representatives, several federal agencies would have had to shut after Friday’s deadline, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Agriculture.

The bill now goes to the Senate for approval. Before it expires, the Republican-led congress is expected to consider a $450bn (£350bn) bill to fund the departments through the fiscal year that ends after September 2019.

Mr Trump has demanded $5bn this year to build his wall. Democrats argue it would be ineffective at keeping out illegal immigrants and illicit drugs.

Instead, Democrats want to continue improving less costly fencing and technology to detect illegal border crossings.

The total cost of the wall is expected to exceed $25bn and could spark lawsuits over the government seizing private property in some construction areas.

House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer are expected to support the bipartisan measures which allow for an additional $1.6bn in border security, despite opposition from several House Democrats.

The Democrat leaders also signalled they would be willing to extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security for one more year. The department is tasked with overseeing production of the wall.

On Monday, Trump tweeted: “We would save Billions of Dollars if the Democrats would give us the votes to build the Wall. Either way, people will NOT be allowed into our Country illegally! We will close the entire Southern Border if necessary. Also, STOP THE DRUGS!”

Previously, Mr Trump threatened to force a partial government shutdown if Congress did not give him the money he wants for the wall.

The president had been scheduled to meet on Tuesday with Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer to discuss the impasse and their opposal to his plans for the wall. But memorial observances for former President George HW Bush postponed that meeting until next week.

A government shutdown doesn’t effectively mean a blackout in Washington. If at any point Congress and Trump cannot agree on legislation to keep government agencies running, essential services, such as the FBI and other federal law enforcement, would continue.

Reuters contributed to this report