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Wednesday December 13th, 2017 9:36AM

The Latest: House passes bill to avert government shutdown

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the budget battle in Congress (all times local):

4:55 p.m.

The House has passed a bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend.

The measure passed on a 235-193 vote Thursday, mostly along party lines, and would keep the government running through Dec. 22. The idea is to buy time for negotiations on unfinished bipartisan business on Capitol Hill, including the budget, a key children's health program and aid to hurricane-slammed Puerto Rico.

Those negotiations are sure to be tricky. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi staked out a hard line on Thursday and insisted that any year-end deal would include help for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The immigrants are viewed sympathetically by the public and most lawmakers but face deportation in a few months because President Donald Trump reversed administrative protections provided to them by former President Barack Obama.

___

3:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump's meeting with congressional leaders has relocated from the Oval Office to the White House Situation Room for a briefing on military readiness.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday that the leadership was "receiving an update on our military by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis."

The group is convening to continue negotiations on critical end-of-year spending legislation, with Democrats and Republicans deeply divided on defense and immigration priorities.

Both sides are expressing optimism about averting a government shutdown at midnight Friday, when the current spending authority expires, and later this month.

___

3:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump and Democratic and Republican congressional leaders are sounding an optimistic tone as they sit down at the White House.

Trump said Thursday that he hopes the group will make good progress as they prepare to discuss plans to avert a government shutdown and reach an end-of-year budget agreement.

He says: "We're all here as a very friendly, well-unified group."

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also say they hope to come to an agreement.

Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi skipped a meeting with him last week after Trump tweeted that he doubted he could reach any deal with them.

___

12:10 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is suggesting that House Republicans have enough votes to fund the federal government through Dec. 22, even if all Democrats vote against the measure.

The Wisconsin Republican says, "I feel good where we are." He called keeping the government running "just basic governing."

Congress faces a midnight Friday deadline to avert a partial government shutdown. The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would fund the government through Dec. 22 while lawmakers negotiate a longer spending bill.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats don't intend to vote for the measure because it doesn't include funding for their priorities.

___

11:15 a.m.

The drama over whether the House will pass legislation preventing a weekend partial government shutdown is essentially over.

The leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus says Republicans' chief vote counter has told him there are enough votes to pass a short-term spending bill Thursday, keeping agencies open until Dec. 22.

Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina says his group will likely provide leaders with the needed votes. Conservatives had threatened to oppose the legislation.

Meadows says they want to avoid distractions from the tax bill Republicans plan to push through Congress this month.

Meadows says GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan has promised to try passing future legislation funding the military for the year and leaving fights with Democrats over domestic spending for later.

___

3:45 a.m.

Congress seems set to prevent a weekend government shutdown. But lawmakers and President Donald Trump still have longer-range disputes to settle over spending, immigration and other issues before they can declare budget peace.

Many on both sides have decided a headline-grabbing federal closure would be a political blunder, at least for now. So the House planned to approve legislation Thursday financing federal agencies through Dec. 22. The Senate seemed ready to follow.

Without legislation, many agencies would run out of money after midnight Friday and grind to a close.

The two-week spending measure is aimed at giving both parties' bargainers more time to reach longer-term budget decisions.

To jumpstart that negotiating, Trump and congressional leaders agreed to meet Thursday an attempt to reach agreements.

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