A bill to fund the federal government cleared a key Senate procedural hurdle Tuesday as lawmakers prevent a shutdown when the new fiscal year begins.

The measure to keep the government running through Dec. 11 advanced by a 82-6 tally. A final vote on Wednesday would send the stopgap spending bill to President Donald Trump in time for his signature before the new budget year starts Thursday.

The funding measure advanced while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a last-ditch effort to strike an agreement on a separate COVID-19 rescue bill that has eluded them for weeks.  The two spoke Tuesday for almost an hour, Pelosi’s office said, and plan further discussions on Wednesday.

The two sides remain far apart on COVID relief, and neither side has publicly offered the kind of concessions that would generate tangible momentum.  Republicans say they cannot stomach any agreement close to the $2.2 trillion bill that Democrats are pushing, and Pelosi has not been willing to offer greater concessions without Republicans giving more ground of their own.

Pelosi’s proposal represents a cutback from a $3.4 billion bill that passed the House in May but remains well above what Senate Republicans are willing to accept.  Republicans have endorsed staying in the $650 billion to $1 trillion range.

Pelosi has not budged an inch on a key demand of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who says he will not permit a vote on any relief bill that does not provide a liability shield for businesses, schools and universities that reopen as the pandemic rages on.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former tea party lawmaker who has clashed with Pelosi in recent weeks, offered a non-committal assessment of the situation Tuesday as he escorted Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Capitol for her first round of meeting with GOP senators.

Meadows told reporters that he and Mnuchin “had a couple of conversations this morning. We also had a conversation with the president so hopefully we’ll make some progress and find a solution for the American people.”

For additional information visit our friends at the Associated Press.

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