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US Senate signs off on $1.4 trillion funding bills in bid to avert shutdown

The U.S. Senate passed two spending packages worth nearly $1.4 trillion that it needed to approve before federal government funding expires at midnight Dec. 20.

Senators voted 71-23 in favor of the first package covering eight bills focused on domestic spending and 81-11 to approve a second, four-bill package on funding for national security. The House had earlier cleared both pieces of legislation Dec. 17.

President Donald Trump is widely expected to sign the bills before the Dec. 20 midnight deadline, allowing federal government agencies to function until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2020.

The spending packages include nearly $1.4 billion in funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the same level as last year. They also include $25 million in funding for federal gun violence research, $425 million for election security grants, a $22 billion increase in defense spending and a 3.1% military pay raise, CNBC reported.

The packages also call for the scrapping of the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost healthcare plans. The move, along with other health-related tax repeals, could add $500 billion to federal debt over 10 years, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Conflict between Democrats and the White House over border wall funding resulted in a 35-day federal government shutdown between December 2018 and January 2019.

The Trump administration had reached an agreement in July with leaders of Congress to suspend the U.S. debt limit and increase government spending for defense and non-defense programs for two years. Congress has since had to enact two temporary spending bills, in September and November, as Republicans and Democrats argued over funding for the border wall and other priorities.