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Congress averts shutdown, sends Trump spending bill

Profile image for Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram
Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram, Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Congress on Thursday passed a stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend and buy time for challenging talks on a wide range of unfinished business on Capitol Hill. The shutdown reprieve came as all sides issued optimistic takes on an afternoon White House meeting between top congressional leaders and President Donald Trump.

The measure passed the House 235-193, mostly along party lines, and breezed through the Senate on a sweeping 81-14 tally barely an hour later. It would keep the government running through Dec. 22, when another, and more difficult, shutdown problem awaits.

The bill now heads to Trump for his signature.

Topics at the White House session included relief from a budget freeze on the Pentagon and domestic agencies, extending a key children's health program and aid to hurricane-slammed Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida. The trickiest topic, and a top priority for Democrats, involves protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

These "Dreamer" immigrants are viewed sympathetically by the public and most lawmakers but face deportation in a few months because Trump reversed administrative protections provided to them by former President Barack Obama.

In back-to-back statements, both Democratic and GOP leaders declared the meeting "productive." The White House called it "constructive."

"We had a productive conversation on a wide variety of issues. Nothing specific has been agreed to, but discussions continue," said Capitol Hill's top Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, ticking off a roster of Democratic priorities, including domestic spending increases, funding for veterans and money to battle opioid abuse, immigration and health care.

GOP leaders said they agreed with the need to address immigration, including the almost 1 million immigrants given protections by Obama, many of whom have only known America as their home.

Spokesmen for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said GOP leaders "stressed the need to address border security, interior enforcement and other parts of our broken immigration system," adding that the tricky immigration issue "should be a separate process and not used to hold hostage funding for our men and women in uniform."