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House passes short-term spending bill as government shutdown looms

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The House on Thursday passed a GOP-backed short-term spending bill that would fund the government through Feb. 16. The vote was 230-197, with a handful of Republicans voting against the measure.

Both chambers of Congress have until Friday night to pass a new spending bill, but Democrats and Republicans remain at an impasse over the path forward, increasing the chances of the first government shutdown since 2013. The Senate has yet to vote. If lawmakers don’t extend funding by Friday night, the government will shut down early Saturday.

This marks the fourth short-term spending bill Congress has had on its plate since September. Democrats, however, remain largely opposed to the measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), because they want it tied to a larger immigration deal over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and border security.

The CR includes a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and delays on three Obamacare taxes. Shortly before the vote, the House Freedom Caucus said a majority of its members had voted to approve the measure, making passage more certain. 

Democrats would be to blame, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, if the government winds up shutting down, blasting them for using the military as “bargaining chips.”

The bill’s fate in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to advance the legislation to a final vote, is much more uncertain. Republicans only have 51 members and Democrats now have 49, with the new addition of Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Thursday morning that the House CR would not be acceptable to Senate Democrats.

The government last shut down in October 2013 for 16 days after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, led an unsuccessful effort to defund Obamacare. Republicans went on to retake control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections. It’s unclear how a government shutdown would affect either party in this year’s midterm elections in November. 

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