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House PASSES stop-gap bill 221-212 to fund the government through February 18

The House passed a bill to fund the government through February 18 on Thursday evening, though a shutdown on Friday still looms thanks to anti-vaccine mandate Republicans in the Senate. 

Just one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, voted alongside the Democratic majority to keep the government open - in a vote of 221-212. 

For the deal to move quickly through the Senate would require unanimous consent.

It is not clear that the bill will move through the upper chamber without objection, as Republicans have plotted to hold up government spending over President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate.      

Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro said that the deal included virtually no new spending, but it does include $7 billion for Afghan refugees.   

'With a new deadline of February 18, there is ample time for Republicans to join us for bipartisan, bicameral appropriations negotiations,' DeLauro said in a statement after passage.  

DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, had originally only wanted to extend the funding for two weeks, but lawmakers on both sides pushed for a longer timeline to hash out fiscal year 2022's budget.  

The conservative House Freedom Caucus wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to stall the legislation in the Senate, but the Kentucky Republican has signaled he has no appetite for a shutdown. 

'We won't shut down,' he told reporters. 'I think we'll get there, and certainly nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown.' 

But McConnell will have to get a few rogue members of his caucus on board, as the bill will go into lengthy debate sure to extend beyond Friday night without unanimous consent. 

Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro, above, said that the deal included virtually no new spending, but it does include $7 billion for Afghan refugees

Democrats are planning to bring a deal to the House floor on Thursday that will fund the government until February 18, narrowly averting the threat of a government shutdown that will kick in Friday night

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, is leading the group plotting the move. By his side are Sens. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. 

'I'm sure we would all like to simplify the process for resolving the [continuing resolution], but I can't facilitate that without addressing the vaccine mandates,' he told Politico Playbook. 

'Given that federal courts across the country have raised serious issues with these mandates, it's not unreasonable for my Democratic colleagues to delay enforcement of the mandates for at least the length of the continuing resolution,' Lee added. 

In early November, 15 Senate Republicans signed onto a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowing to 'oppose all efforts to implement and enforce [the vaccine mandates] with every tool at our disposal, including our votes on spending measures considered by the Senate.'

But some Republicans are growing more frustrated by the ploy. 'I just don't quite understand the strategy or the play of leverage for a mandate that's been stayed by 10 courts,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. 

Biden's mandate, which would order businesses with 100 or more employees to require vaccination or weekly Covid-19 tests, has start date in sight after Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suspended implementation of it last month when a federal court blocked the measure. 

The mandate was originally scheduled to take effect Jan. 4, and businesses would have faced a maximum of $136,532 in fines, $13,653 per violation.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told Politico that he prefers to hold a separate vote next week to roll back Biden's mandate without his party taking a hit for a shutdown. 

'Most everybody agrees with me,' Braun said. 'Almost everybody.'