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US House to vote on bill to avert government shutdown

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By David Morgan and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a bill to avert a partial government shutdown on Thursday, sending it to the Democratic-majority Senate less than two days before funding for some federal agencies runs out.

The House will hold an afternoon vote on a short-term stopgap measure that would extend by one week federal funding that expires at midnight on Friday (0500 GMT on Saturday) and set a March 22 funding deadline for other government agencies.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he hoped his chamber would pass the stopgap, known as a continuing resolution, or “CR,” on Thursday evening, sending it to President Joe Biden to sign it into law.

While both chambers’ leaders agreed on the measure, there are some potential stumbling blocks ahead, especially in the Senate, where some hardline Republicans are expected to demand amendment votes in exchange for their consent to fast-track the bill.

The stopgap, the fourth needed to keep federal agencies open in the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, is intended to give the House and Senate time to pass 12 appropriations bills to fund the government.

About two months have passed since Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and Schumer agreed on a $1.59 trillion discretionary spending level for the fiscal year. House and Senate leaders on Wednesday reached agreement on a slate of full-year appropriations bills to fill in the details.

Representative Tom Cole, a senior Republican appropriator, expected the stopgap to pass the House without difficulty.

“Congress has already voted not to shut down,” Cole told Reuters. “People want to keep working.”

Johnson, who has wielded the speaker’s gavel only since late October, is once again relying on a procedural move that will require substantial Democratic support to pass the CR, a tactic that could anger hardline conservatives.

That could mean problems for Johnson, who has been pressured by hardline Republicans to use a shutdown as a bargaining chip to force Democrats to accept conservative policy riders.

“We’re not going to do anything to actually change the border. We’re not going to do anything that’s going to actually hold the line,” said Representative Chip Roy, a prominent hardliner. “It’s just the Swamp doing what the Swamp does!” he added, using a pejorative term for Washington politics.

But Republican Representative Patrick McHenry said Johnson faces no threat of ouster, unlike his predecessor Kevin McCarthy, who a small group of hardliners voted out of leadership for passing a bipartisan bill to avert a shutdown last year.

“This is the House Republicans coming to terms with reality,” said McHenry. “It’s been clear for months that this is the outcome. To get on with it is the best thing.”

Major ratings agencies say the repeated brinkmanship is taking a toll on the creditworthiness of a nation whose debt has surpassed $34 trillion.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Michael Perry and Jonathan Oatis)

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