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U.S. House to vote on government-funding bill Thursday, in scramble to avert shutdown

Kitco News

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote on Thursday on a bill funding federal agencies through Feb. 18, after Democrats and Republicans agreed on that date in negotiations aimed at averting a partial government shutdown beginning this weekend.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the debate and vote would take place on Thursday, after Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement that "agreement has been reached on a Continuing Resolution."

If the measure passes the House, which Democrats control by a narrow majority, it would need to also pass the Senate before President Joe Biden could sign it into law.

But a group of hardline Republican conservatives are threatening to delay Senate consideration in protest against Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandates, raising the possibility that the government could shut down over the weekend while the Senate moves slowly toward eventual passage.

Congress has until midnight on Friday to pass a measure that would maintain funding federal government operations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, amid concerns about a new rise in cases and the arrival of the Omicron variant in the United States.

A partial government shutdown would create a political embarrassment for both parties, but especially for Biden's Democrats.

Congress faces another urgent deadline right on the heels of this one. The federal government is also approaching its $28.9 trillion borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has estimated it could reach by Dec. 15. Failure to extend or lift the limit in time could cause an economically catastrophic default

The resolution's February timeline suggested a victory for Republicans in closed-door negotiations. Democrats had pushed for a measure that would run into late January, while Republicans demanded a timeline extending into February or March to leave spending at levels agreed to when Republican Donald Trump was president.

"While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people," DeLauro said.

But she said Democrats did prevail in including a $7 billion provision for Afghanistan evacuees.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, John Stonestreet and Andrea Ricci
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