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US Congress tries to hammer out new funding bill as yet another shutdown looms

Congressional leaders said they are close to striking a deal to fund the U.S. government past March 23, though they have not yet released a bill text, and snowy weather set to hit Washington may cost lawmakers a day to hammer out negotiations.

"Hopefully soon," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters at a March 20 news conference when asked when a bill would be made available. "I'm hoping today."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that Congress would take the time they need to continue funding the government.

"We're going to do it this week," he said. "As long as that takes, that's the time we'll put in to get there."

Across the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said lawmakers are very close to coming up with a bill that can pass both chambers of Congress. He declined to offer details as to what might be included in the overall funding package.

"A few sticking points remain," Schumer said, and "not everyone's going to be happy. That's the nature of a compromise."

S&P Global Ratings calls the prospect of a shutdown "highly unlikely" given midterm elections scheduled for November, while admitting that this year's two previous shutdowns were also considered unlikely.

"If it's brief, a shutdown wouldn't be a disaster, and while it could slow down the economic engine a few revs, the engine would keep running," the rating agency said in a news release. "That's somewhat reassuring, but a shutdown would still reduce some of the economic gains the U.S. receives from the tax package that would start to appear in the first quarter."

S&P estimates that a shutdown could knock off about about 0.2 percentage points, or $6.5 billion on an annualized basis, from first-quarter GDP growth for every week the doors are closed.

"We think Congress will reach a new agreement on funding the government, but if it doesn't, depending on the length, first-quarter as well as second-quarter growth could take a hit," S&P concluded. "And another short continuing-resolution reprieve, which kicks the 'shutdown can' down the road a few feet, only complicates and delays what could be an ugly fight."

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.