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US Senate reaches deal to avert government shutdown, Democrats say

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (R) talks to an aid at the US Capitol, on September 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo via AFP)

US Democratic lawmakers have reached an agreement with Republicans to avert the threat of a government shutdown, which would send hundreds of thousands of government employees home, in the midst of a national health crisis.

The administration of President Joe Biden negotiates the tricky passage of two giant spending bills and a fix to lift the debt ceiling without the support of Republicans.

Lawmakers are deadlocked over the prospect of a first-ever US debt default that would erase an estimated six million jobs and wipe out $15 trillion of household wealth, tanking the economy.

But the most urgent priority is funding for federal agencies to avert the government shutdown.

With the threat of the shutdown off the table, Democratic leadership would be free to focus on raising the debt ceiling and passing Biden's sputtering domestic agenda -- a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan and a $3.5 trillion spending plan.

The bills are central to Biden's legacy, but both risk failing because of feuding between the Democrats' progressive and centrist factions.

Congress is now due to vote on a bipartisan resolution to fund federal operations, early Thursday morning, said Majority Leader Chuck Schumer late Wednesday night.

He said they agreed to pass a temporary legislation to fund federal operations through early December.

The bill, which includes $6.3 billion to help Afghan refugees and $28.6 billion in disaster aid, would keep the government running into early December, but it would still need to pass the House.

The federal funding will lapse if congress fails to pass an appropriations plan before midnight Thursday.

“We have agreement on the CR — the continuing resolution — to prevent the government shutdown,’ Schumer said

“We can approve this measure quickly and send it to the House so it can reach the president’s desk before funding expires midnight tomorrow,” he said. “With so many critical issues to address, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown.”

But only seven House Republicans have publicly indicated they will back the bipartisan bill.

In the event of a partial government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of government employees would be sent home as federal services and properties close.

The Biden administration has already sent shutdown guidance to agencies ahead of the funding deadline.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer were at the White House on Wednesday afternoon after Biden canceled a trip to Chicago to lead negotiations with Congress.

“We’re obviously at a precarious and important time,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday.

If the resolution to fund the government passes the Senate, the House could vote quickly to send the measure to Biden to sign into law and avert a government shutdown.

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