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The Senate avoids a government shutdown, punting a spending deadline into March

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chair of the Appropriations Committee, talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 31. Congress returned from a weeklong recess to take up a number of issues, including a government funding deadline on Feb. 18.
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Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chair of the Appropriations Committee, talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 31. Congress returned from a weeklong recess to take up a number of issues, including a government funding deadline on Feb. 18.

The Senate voted 65-27 Thursday evening to approve a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government through March 11.

The short-term punt is intended to buy lawmakers time to work out a more all-encompassing spending agreement that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Top negotiators on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees say they have reached an agreement on a spending framework that will need broader approval in the coming weeks.

The stop-gap was delayed for several days as a group of Republican senators demanded the chance to vote on amendments restricting how the government spends federal funds. The Senate ultimately rejected several amendments, including one from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to bar federal funding for enforcing COVID-19 vaccine requirements and an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to block federal funding to schools and child care centers that have COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Leahy, D-Vt., said Thursday in a speech on the Senate floor that a long-term spending agreement is necessary to ensure the country's current pressing needs are met.

"Funding the priorities of yesterday in the world of today would be irresponsible and is no way to govern," Leahy said.

Leahy and other top negotiators have not revealed the details of their agreement. Democrats have said their top priorities include additional money for global vaccine distribution and further aid for COVID-19 testing in states. Republicans say their main focus is on additional military funding, particularly as the United States weighs intervention into the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

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