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Tea party lawmakers pave way to deal, averting a government shutdown

Government funding was set to run out on Sept. 30, but congressional leaders on Tuesday said they reached a deal to extend it for six months at current levels. Lawmakers with tea party leanings led the way, to prevent possibility of a preelection government shutdown. 

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Often-feuding congressional leaders have reached a deal to extend funding for government operations when the fiscal year runs out on Sept. 30.

If Congress’s long-running debates over spending and taxes are any indication, a debate over how much government spending to authorize come Oct. 1 could have been a bloody showdown just weeks before the election.

Instead, Congress plans to approve a six-month authorization of current funding levels (known as a “continuing resolution,” or CR) when lawmakers return from their August recess in the second week of September.

In a surprise turn of events, Congress’s most conservative lawmakers are the ones who paved the way to the deal. They were led by Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina and a cohort of House lawmakers with sparkling records on conservative scorecards grading votes on economic issues.

Senator DeMint sent a letter, which contained two surprises, to Republican leaders on both ends of Capitol Hill. First, about 20 of the GOP’s most conservative lawmakers agreed to use a continuing resolution to address the situation, even though they have frequently derided that tool as one that allows Congress to shirk its budgeting responsibilities. (Many more lawmakers voiced general support for the move after the letter was published.)

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