Congress moves to prevent a government shutdown with deadline hours away

A visitor runs around the Washington Monument near the U.S. Capitol at dawn, in Washington, U.S., September 29, 2021.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

Congress will race to prevent a government shutdown Thursday with hours to go before a midnight deadline.

The Senate plans to move first to pass a short-term appropriations bill that would keep the government running through Dec. 3. Barring delays, the House would then approve the plan and send it to President Joe Biden before funding lapses.

The legislation includes money for hurricane relief and the resettlement of Afghan refugees.

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A government shutdown could lead to furloughs of federal workers and the suspension of certain services. A funding lapse could pose particular challenges during U.S. efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic — though the Biden administration has said a shutdown would have little effect on public health functions.

Congress can snuff out one possible crisis Thursday but has another looming. Lawmakers still need to raise or suspend the debt ceiling before Oct. 18 to prevent a default on U.S. debt that would result in job losses, economic damage and a drop in the stock market.

Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, tried to fund the government and suspend the debt ceiling as part of the same bill. Senate Republicans blocked the legislation, even though extending the ceiling doesn’t mean new spending. Approval would authorize the Treasury to cover its existing obligations.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said his party will vote for a funding bill without a suspension of the debt ceiling.

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