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US Congress agrees on a 45-day reprieve from government shutdown

The looming crisis of a US government shutdown has been averted, tentatively and temporarily, by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has defied hard-right Republicans and agreed to a stopgap funding bill.

Now, unless the Democrat-controlled Senate rejects the compromise – a scenario Capitol Hill watchers deem unlikely in the extreme – the 45-day temporary funding bill will go to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.

McCarthy abandoned party hardliners’ earlier insistence that any bill pass the chamber with only Republican votes, a change that could cause one of his far-right members to try to oust him from his leadership role.

The House voted 335-91 to fund the government for another 45 days, with more Democrats than Republicans supporting it. The measure would extend government funding by 45 days if it passes the Democratic-majority Senate and is signed into law by Democratic President Joe Biden.

The move marked a profound shift from earlier in the week, when a shutdown looked all but inevitable.

‘MAGA Republicans have lost’

Some 209 Democrats supported the bill, far more than the 126 Republicans who did so, and Democrats described the result as a win.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans have lost, the American people have won,” top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries told reporters ahead of the vote.

Democratic Representative Don Beyer said: “I am relieved that Speaker McCarthy folded and finally allowed a bipartisan vote at the eleventh hour on legislation to stop Republicans’ rush to a disastrous shutdown.”

McCarthy’s shift won the support of top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, who previously had backed a similar measure that was moving through the Senate with broad bipartisan support, even though the House version dropped aid for Ukraine.

“Under these circumstances, I’m recommending a ‘no’ vote, even though I very much want to avoid a government shutdown,” McConnell said.

The two bills are very similar, with the House version providing another 45 days of funding for the federal government – enough to last through mid-November – but not providing additional funds to help Ukraine fight off a Russian invasion.

McCarthy dismissed concerns that hardline Republicans could try to oust him as leader.

“I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy told reporters.

“And you know what? If I have to risk my job for standing up for the American public, I will do that.”

-AAP

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