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House passes stopgap bill to avoid government shutdown

The House on Wednesday passed a weeklong stopgap bill to keep the government open through Dec. 18 before current funding expires Friday as lawmakers continue to negotiate a longer-term spending package and coronavirus relief.

The bill passed handily, 343-67, and now heads to the Senate for approval. It is expected to be quickly cleared for President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE's signature.

House Democratic leaders had initially hoped to wrap up legislative work for the year by the end of this week so that members could go home in time to quarantine for two weeks from any potential COVID-19 exposure from traveling and gathering in the Capitol before spending Christmas with their families.

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But with talks over an all-encompassing spending package known as an omnibus and coronavirus relief moving slowly, lawmakers acknowledged that they would need more time. Both sides are keen to avoid a damaging government shutdown during the height of the pandemic.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE (D-Md.) called the stopgap measure an "admission of failure" as negotiators struggled to reach an agreement.

"This is something we have to do to keep the government working. But we ought not to believe or pretend or represent this is the way we ought to do business. It is not. It is a function of procrastination, a function of failing to come together and making compromises," Hoyer said on the House floor.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.) said Wednesday that negotiators agreed on most issues for the omnibus package but still had some sticking points.

"We were at probably 95 percent closure a couple of days ago," Shelby told reporters in the Capitol. "We’ve got to get a deal. I think perhaps the omnibus and the COVID relief are kind of linked."

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The House passed 10 of the annual 12 appropriations bills earlier this year, but the Senate has yet to pass any of its versions of full-year spending bills.

Lawmakers are expected to attach coronavirus relief to the spending package since it's a must-pass bill that offers an available legislative vehicle.

Congressional leaders and the Trump administration have failed to reach a deal on coronavirus economic relief since the summer. But with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiking nationally and unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium programs set to expire this month, lawmakers are under pressure to pass a bill to provide at least some relief before the holidays.

A bipartisan group of centrist members of the House and Senate circulated a $908 billion coronavirus relief proposal on Wednesday that would provide $160 billion to state and local governments, extend expiring unemployment insurance programs, and provide a $300 weekly boost into April.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses McConnell: Power-sharing deal can proceed after Manchin, Sinema back filibuster Budowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday suggested setting aside two of the biggest sticking points — liability protections for businesses and funding for state and local governments — and moving a pared-down bill with provisions that already have bipartisan consensus.

But Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOklahoma man who videotaped himself with his feet on desk in Pelosi's office during Capitol riot released on bond House formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot With another caravan heading North, a closer look at our asylum law MORE (D-Calif.) shot down the idea hours later and argued that funding for state and local governments is necessary for vaccine distribution.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary | Biden says he's open to tighter income limits for stimulus checks | Administration will look to expedite getting Tubman on bill Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary Biden administration will look to expedite getting Tubman on bill MORE on Tuesday offered a $916 billion proposal to Democrats that includes funding for state and local governments and liability protections. But Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell: Power-sharing deal can proceed after Manchin, Sinema back filibuster Justice watchdog to probe whether officials sought to interfere with election Capitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? MORE (D-N.Y.) said it didn't provide enough funding for unemployment insurance.