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Pence says White House, Congress have reached agreement to avoid shutdown without adding coronavirus relief

The Trump administration and Congress have agreed to pass a bill to avoid a government shutdown without tying funding to separate measures such as coronavirus relief, Vice President Mike Pence said Friday.

Approving a so-called continuing resolution, which would temporarily set federal spending at current levels, would not inject the heated politics of pandemic aid into efforts to keep the government running. 

“Now, we can focus just on another relief bill, and we’re continuing to do that in good faith,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” 

Government funding will lapse if Congress does not pass legislation before the end of the month. Speculation had grown that congressional leaders could try to include coronavirus relief measures in a spending package as a way to gain leverage in stimulus negotiations that have barely moved forward since they fell apart last month. 

Pence’s comments Friday indicated the stalemate over how much money to put into boosting the economy could linger. Democrats have pushed the Trump administration to increase the price tag on their stimulus offer to at least $2.2 trillion from about $1.3 trillion. The White House has not yet budged. 

Pence criticized Democrats over perhaps the largest remaining sticking point in talks. Democratic leaders want more than $900 billion in new aid to cash-crunched state and local governments, while the Trump administration has offered $150 billion. 

“We’re not going to allow Democrats in Congress to use a coronavirus relief bill to bail out poorly run Democratic states,” the vice president said. 

The bipartisan National Governors Association has asked for at least $500 billion more in state and municipal aid. Governments have warned of possible cuts to essential services as they taken on more costs and lose revenue during the pandemic. 

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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