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Washington, District Of Columbia (AFP) Sept 11, 2013
A key US lawmaker introduced a stop-gap funding bill Wednesday to prevent an October 1 government shut-down, acknowledging there is not enough time to pass a yearly US budget.
House Appropriations Committee chairman, Republican Hal Rogers, unveiled a temporary measure that would continue funding for all federal agencies, programs and services after the current fiscal year ends September 30 -- but only until December 15.
The so-called "continuing resolution" would fund discretionary spending -- which excludes some military costs and entitlement program payments like Social Security -- at the annual rate of $986.3 billion.
That figure almost certainly will be contested by Democrats, who charge House Speaker John Boehner is seeking to make automatic spending cuts -- known as sequestration -- enacted earlier this year permanent by not extending funding at the pre-sequester levels.
House Republican leader Eric Cantor said a vote on the measure is expected this week.
Congress has bickered for months over spending levels, with Republicans calling for greater budget austerity, and has been unable to agree on a full federal budget for fiscal year 2014.
"This is not the preferred way of doing the nation's financial work," Rogers conceded in a statement.
"However, given the late date, a continuing resolution is necessary to stop a government-wide shutdown that would halt critical government programs and services, destabilize our economy, and put the safety and well-being of our citizens at risk."
The measure would not cancel the deeply controversial sequester that went into effect in March, but gives a degree of flexibility to certain programs, including border police.
In the absence of a full budget bill, the stop-gap measure will need to be passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democrat-led Senate by September 30.
If not budget is passed, government doors would be shuttered and non-essential services would grind to a halt -- a potential disaster both parties say they are keen to avoid.
Memories are still fresh in Washington about Christmas 1995, when failed negotiations between President Bill Clinton and the Republican majority in Congress led to a three-week shutdown.
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