Government shutdown averted as $1 trillion bill nears passage

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress appears on track to avert a government shutdown this weekend, even as President Barack Obama's push to extend a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for another year is encountering snags.

(Photo: Flickr/cometstarmoon)

Those hiccups in finding spending cuts to pay for extending a 2 percentage point cut in Social Security payroll taxes and jobless benefits for millions have prompted Democratic leaders to suggest just a two-month, $40 billion extension of expiring tax breaks and jobless benefits might be needed.

CHART: Where is your money going and what's getting cut?

But the first act in clearing away a pile of unfinished business for an unpopular Congress is for the GOP-controlled House to pass a massive, bipartisan, $1 trillion-plus spending measure funding 10 Cabinet departments and U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That vote is on track for Friday afternoon, but a stopgap bill could be needed to fund the government into next week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Thursday night that he was still optimistic that bipartisan talks on yearlong extensions of the Social Security payroll tax cut and unemployment coverage would succeed. But as a "Plan B," he said, they were working on a two-month extension as well, which would also prevent cuts in Medicare reimbursements for doctors during that period.

On the next page: When will a long-term spending bell get passed?

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