The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to keep the government open until late November, setting up a huge closure later this year across President Trump's border wall that could force another shutdown before Thanksgiving.
The short-term nature of Thursday's legislation was the result of unsuccessful efforts to complete a broader spending package before September 30. when government funding ends absent congressional measures. The need for the stopgap measure shows how basic spending issues remain unresolved and deeply problematic, although they would have been largely dispatched through a sweeping budget and debt rate agreement concluded during the summer.
To buy more time to negotiate, legislators decided to delay the tougher decisions for two months. The legislation passed by the House on Thursday keeps government spending flowing through November 21. The vote was 301-123.
The Senate is scheduled to implement the measure next week with only a few days to save before September 30, and Trump is expected to sign it.
But there is little reason to believe that legislators will reach a resolution by November 21, and many are already discussing the need to approve another short-term spending bill before Thanksgiving.
At the heart of the dispute: Senate Democrats' claims that Republicans are transferring money to Trump's southern border wall that should go for domestic programs. Republicans deny the allegations, but Democrats are blocking measures to spend bills for the Pentagon and other agencies as they press their complaints.
And some lawmakers, especially Democrats, already predict they will end up right where they were last winter, when Trump's demand for additional funding for his wall forced the nation into a record-breaking 35-day partial government shutdown.
"It's hard for me to understand how Republicans think this will play differently than it did last year," said Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The closure was a disaster for the country but also for the president and the Republicans, and they are whistling past the cemetery again."
Some Republicans are similarly pessimistic about the runaway congress, although they insist that this time the shutdown will somehow be avoided.
"It's deja vu again," said the rep. Mark Meadows (RN.C.), leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus. “We will extend it to the day before Thanksgiving break, surprise surprise. And then we will extend it to the day before Christmas, surprise surprise. And then we will end up putting bad things in a bill that you probably agreed to months ago. "