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Lawmakers were on Saturday preparing to vote on a last-minute compromise to avert a shutdown of the US government that would furlough hundreds of thousands of federal workers, leave troops without pay and risk damaging the economy.
Any deal would need to pass both the Republican-held House and the Democrat-controlled Senate by midnight on Saturday, after which many government operations would have to stop.
A shutdown appeared all but certain late on Friday after 21 Republican rebels voted against a stop-gap funding measure proposed by Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. House Democrats also voted against the measure because it included steep budget cuts.
But on Saturday McCarthy came back with a new offer to continue funding the government at current levels for another 45 days. House Democrats said they needed time to consider the proposal before deciding whether to endorse it.
McCarthy will be relying on Democratic votes because Republicans control the House by a razor-thin margin but the rebels on his own side leave him without the necessary votes.
Meanwhile in the Senate, the upper chamber of Congress, lawmakers were also gearing up to vote on Saturday afternoon on their own temporary measure that would keep funding the government at current levels, as well as provide several billion dollars in additional aid for Ukraine and disaster relief for parts of America affected by floods and wildfires.
It was unclear whether a majority of the Senate would be willing to drop the additional aid for Ukraine in order to strike a deal with the House, where many Republicans have been wary of providing more support for Kyiv.
Democrats have placed the blame for the shutdown drama on Republicans, given a small but powerful minority of hardliners in the House have hindered several proposed compromise deals in recent days.
Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, lambasted “extreme” Republicans for “marching us to a dangerous government shutdown” as he spoke at length on the House floor in an effort to buy time for his party to consider the latest McCarthy proposal.
“We’re supposed to believe that the chaos, the dysfunction, the extremism is largely a result of the narrow niche of the Republican majority,” he said. “We had the same exact majority — extremely narrow — on the other side of the aisle and instead of chaos, dysfunction and extremism, we got things done for the American people.”
The White House has also blamed House Republicans for the dysfunction, insisting Congress bears responsibility for funding the federal government.
Source: Financial Times