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US budget: Scramble to avoid government shutdown

US President Donald TrumpImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Trump has been forced to make concessions to reach a deal

US lawmakers are racing to debate legislation that will avert a feared government shutdown.

The stop-gap bill would allow Congress an extra week to reach a deal to fund the government to the end of September.

The legislation will first be debated in the House of Representatives on Friday, just hours before a deadline for funding federal agencies expires.

Republicans have been forced to make several concessions, the latest on funding for so-called Obamacare.

If the bill passes the House, as expected, the Senate will take it up and, if it continues its passage, it will be sent to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.

The Republican-controlled Congress wants to avoid a government shutdown, which would close national parks and monuments, lay off federal employees and delay tax refund payments.

The last shutdown, in 2013, lasted for 17 days.

President Trump tweeted his frustration at the Democrats, saying: “As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks – Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!”

What is at stake?

The proposed bill would give lawmakers until 5 May to work out their differences on $1 trillion (£770bn) of funding until 30 September.

Without the extension, federal agencies will run out of money by midnight on Friday (04:00 GMT Saturday).

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Media captionThe divided newlyweds split over Trump’s performance

A shutdown would most probably trigger abrupt layoffs of hundreds of thousands of federal government workers until funding resumes.

In a late-night meeting on Thursday, the House Rules Committee voted 8-2 to send the legislation to the House for debate on Friday.

“I’m confident we will be able to pass a short-term extension,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

What is the hold-up?

There have been a number of key disputes.

One is Mr Trump’s proposal to erect a wall on the US-Mexico border. He had to yield to Democrat demands not to include funding for it in the spending bill.

Another was Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

Mr Trump made scrapping it a key campaign pledge but he failed in an earlier attempt to get his own health plan through Congress.

The Republicans wanted to include cuts to a key part of Obamacare in the budget deal but have now withdrawn that.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The deal would allow lawmakers another week to reach a final spending deal

It is also not clear whether the Republicans will be able to increase defence spending without also raising investment in other domestic programmes.

Mr Trump has proposed $30bn in extra funds for the Pentagon for the rest of this fiscal year.

Democrats had refused to support the bill unless it allowed for an Obamacare provision that paid health insurance companies to help keep medical costs down for low-income Americans.

The resolution will also extend healthcare benefits for retired union coal miners through to 5 May. Those benefits would have expired on Friday as well.

The sweeping spending package would combine 11 unfinished spending bills into a single “omnibus” bill, becoming the first bipartisan legislation under Mr Trump’s presidency.

How has Trump done so far?

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