WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (Reuters) — The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to advance a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government operating through Dec. 11, paving the way for final passage before a deadline next week.

With government funding running out on Sept. 30, the legislation would continue funding most programs at current levels, and thus avoid a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic and ahead of the Nov. 3 elections.

The Republican-majority Senate voted 93-2 to open debate on the measure. It was unclear when the vote on final passage would take place, but Sen. Richard Shelby, Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters it might not happen before next Tuesday.

The House passed the temporary spending bill Tuesday after Democrats struck a deal with the White House and Republicans on aid for farmers and nutritional assistance for children.

Under the agreement, a program to stabilize farm incomes would be replenished at the White House's request, while $8 billion would be added to nutrition assistance for school children at Democrats' request.

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The rest of the bill generally continues current spending levels. It would give lawmakers more time to work out spending through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)