US Congress Nears Budget Deal to Avert Possible Shutdown

Posted December 16th, 2011 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives say they have reached an agreement on funding the federal government that will avert a possible shutdown of most government operations.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Friday morning that a bill to fund the government was put together in collaboration with lawmakers from both major parties.

Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, leader of the minority Democrats in the House, accused Republicans of political posturing and delaying tactics that caused the last-minute negotiations on such important legislation.

A vote on the budget bill is expected later Friday, before a midnight deadline that would set the government-shutdown process in motion.

A shutdown would cut off funds to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of federal employees, who then would be put on unpaid furlough just days before the Christmas holiday, when most Americans are buying presents and spending on festivities. Many public facilities such as national parks and museums would be shut entirely.

Lawmakers still have not agreed on whether to extend payroll tax cuts for American workers. What originally was a temporary tax reduction will expire at the end of this month. President Barack Obama has pressed Congress to extend the cuts; otherwise, he says, 160 million Americans will face a tax increase in the New Year, at a time when they can least afford it.