Senate clears first of two bills to fund government through 2020

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The Senate approved the first of two spending packages to fund the federal government through fiscal 2020.

The 71-23 vote Thursday clears the measure for President Trump’s likely signature ahead of a Dec. 20 deadline.

The spending bill funds eight federal departments, including Labor, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, military construction, and Veterans Affairs.

The Senate later Thursday will vote on a second package to fund the Defense Department, Homeland Security, and other agencies. That measure includes $1.375 billion in funding for the construction of a southern border wall.

Congress is on track to dodge a spending showdown and a partial government shutdown that has become a regular occurrence due to partisan differences.

Last year, part of the government remained closed for 35 days because Democrats and Republicans could not agree on a deal to fund the border wall.

This year, Democrats agreed to allow wall funding and other border security budget numbers to remain at 2019 levels, which satisfied Republicans.

“Bipartisan cooperation has made this possible,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.

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