House GOP offering new patch to avert shutdown

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans have unveiled a new, stripped-down spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend and allow lawmakers to head home for the holidays.

The GOP bill, released early Thursday, paves the way for quarreling lawmakers to punt most of their unfinished business into the new year, especially battles over the budget and immigration.

But GOP leaders are scrambling to rally some frustrated Republicans behind the measure, particularly defense hawks who had hoped to enact record budget increases for the Pentagon this year. A vote is likely Thursday and Senate passage is expected to quickly follow.

The House may also vote on an $81 billion disaster aid package that's a priority of the Texas and Florida delegations, but its fate is uncertain. The Senate would likely add to the measure and pass it next year.

Lawmakers hope to approve a must-pass spending bill on Thursday as the clock ticks toward potential government shutdown this weekend.

Despite the perilous situation, House Republican leaders are still struggling to unite the GOP rank-and-file behind a plan that would punt most of their remaining work into next year.

House GOP leaders unveiled a plan Wednesday evening at a closed-door meeting but a number of defense hawks opposed plans to put off a battle with Democrats until January.

There's still plenty of time to avert a politically debilitating shutdown of the government, and such a pratfall would detract from the party's success this week in muscling through its landmark tax bill. With Republicans controlling Washington, they would not have anyone else to blame for a shutdown debacle.

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