US House backs stop-gap bill to avert government shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. Congress on Thursday advanced stopgap legislation to keep the federal government operating past Friday when funding expires, seeking to avert a self-inflicted disaster just before the Christmas holiday season.

The House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 231 to 188 that would keep federal agencies humming along at current funding through Jan. 19 and prevent a shutdown that would trigger political havoc in Washington.

The Senate could take up the measure on Thursday night, even as some Democrats pushed to include protections for young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children, popularly known as "Dreamers."

Republicans were able to pass the bill without much Democratic support in the House, but they will need at least eight Democratic votes in the Senate.

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Inside meetings held to avert a government shutdown
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Inside meetings held to avert a government shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence meet with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks to a reporter in a hallway December 21, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Congress is trying to pass a short term spending bill to fund the government through January 19 and avert a shutdown at midnight on Friday.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks about the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) listens during a meeting about a bill to avert government shutdown December 21, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arrives at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell look across toward Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi during a meeting with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

A pedestrian walks past the U.S. Capitol as congressional lawmakers work on a deal to fund the government and avert a shutdown by midnight Friday, on December 21, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) listens to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) speaking at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), left, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), arrive for a Republican conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks at a news conference with House Republican leaders after a closed conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 5, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Leader, arrives for a Republican conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 21: House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) attend a House Rules Committee meeting as negotiations continue on funding the government to avert a shutdown at midnight on Friday night, at the U.S. Capitol on December 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks to members of the media near the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Facing a tough vote count that's currently well short, several Senate Republicans said a stopgap bill to fund the government for just a few days is now under discussion. Photographer: Zach Gibson/ Bloomberg
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks to reporters as he arrives for the weekly Republican party caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) (C) is trailed by reporters as he walks between meetings at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) walks to the House chamber for continuing resolution vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer declined to say whether Democrats would unite to defeat the bill in that chamber.

"We need more senators voting with us," said Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, one of more than a dozen House Democrats who met with Schumer to urge a "no" vote.

The House also passed an $81 billion disaster aid bill by a vote of 251 to 169 that would help Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and several states hit by this year's hurricanes or wildfires.

If Congress passes the temporary spending bill, lawmakers will have less than a month to negotiate broader budget issues. Republicans are pushing for an increase in military spending, while Democrats want increases for medical research, opioid treatment and "anti-terrorism" activities.

The House bill includes a modest increase of $4.7 billion for the Department of Defense to be used for missile defense and ship repair.

As the House began debate on the bill, Hispanic lawmakers pressed Schumer to oppose the bill if it does not shield Dreamers from deportation.

President Donald Trump has eliminated protections for Dreamers, but has asked Congress to come up with a permanent solution by March.

McConnell said the Senate could hold a vote to protect the young immigrants if a bipartisan deal is struck in January.

Trump accused Democrats of pushing for a shutdown to shift attention from the tax cut plan that passed Congress this week. "House Republicans, don't let this happen," he wrote on Twitter.

The Trump administration does not want other elements added to the spending bill, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

The House bill includes $2.85 billion to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program through March and funding for community health centers and the Indian Health Service.

The plan also would extend the National Security Agency's expiring internet surveillance program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, through Jan. 19.

Other provisions address funding for veterans, the Coast Guard and flood insurance.

Most government programs would be temporarily extended for a month at fiscal 2017 levels. Fiscal 2018 began Oct. 1, but Congress has failed to approve any of the regular funding bills for this year and instead has kept agencies running on a temporary basis.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Roberta Rampton and Katanga Johnson; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)

 

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