House backs spending bill, Senate fate unclear

FILE - In this June 30, 2014, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. Conservative and liberal groups are only beginning their battle over the Supreme Court vacancy. There’s already been a smattering of television ads and behind-the-scenes research. But those are just warning shots in what’s sure to be an expensive fight that will color November’s elections. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
FILE - In this June 30, 2014, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. Conservative and liberal groups are only beginning their battle over the Supreme Court vacancy. There’s already been a smattering of television ads and behind-the-scenes research. But those are just warning shots in what’s sure to be an expensive fight that will color November’s elections. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on the final days of the congressional session (all times EST):

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2 p.m.

The House has passed a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open beyond Friday’s midnight deadline. The bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain.

The measure would fund federal agencies and departments through April 28. It also would expedite the process for confirming President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis.

The House approved the bill Thursday on a 326-96 vote.

Senate Democrats from coal states are threatening to delay quick passage of the bill. They want more for retired coal miners who have been guaranteed lifetime health and retirement benefits. The bill only provides $45 million to temporarily protect health care benefits for about 16,500 retired coal miners, mostly in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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1 p.m.

Congress is sending President Barack Obama a defense policy bill that seeks to give Republicans the final word on key national security issues. The bill rebuffs his attempts to shutter the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and reduce the size of armed forces.

The Senate easily passed the defense legislation Thursday on a vote of 92-7, one week after the House overwhelmingly approved the bill.

The defense bill authorizes $611 billion to run the military in 2017.

The legislation bars the Pentagon from trimming the military’s sprawling constellation of bases and facilities, even though senior U.S. defense officials say there is excess capacity.

The bill blocks the Pentagon’s planned reductions in the number of active-duty troops by prohibiting the Army from falling below 476,000 soldiers – 16,000 more than Obama’s defense budget proposed.

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10:16 a.m.

Minority Leader Harry Reid is delivering his final Senate speech after three decades in the chamber.

The Nevada Democrat began by thanking his GOP counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for a tribute. In classic fashion, Reid disputed accounts of their poor relationship, saying: “Go ahead and make up all the stories you want about we hate each other, go ahead, but we don’t.”

Reid talked about his tiny hometown of Searchlight, and about his proudest moment – saving up to buy his mother a new set of teeth.

Family members watched from the gallery, and fellow Democrats and a handful of Republicans looked on from the floor.

Launching into his legislative achievements, Reid said, “I know it’s long and somewhat tedious. I’ve been here a long time, so please be patient.”

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9:30 a.m.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan says efforts to approve the first major energy bill in nearly a decade have run out of time.

Spokeswoman AshLee Strong says in a statement that House and Senate conferees “were not able to come to agreement on various outstanding issues in time for the House to consider a conference report.”

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska disputed Strong’s statement, saying, “The reality is that the House is attempting to run us out of time in order to prevent this bill from moving forward.”

Murkowski chairs the Senate energy panel She’s urging lawmakers in both chambers to keep working on the bill, which would speed exports of liquefied natural gas, reform funding for fighting forest fires and promote land and water conservation, among other provisions.

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