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U.S. short-term government funding bill to last until Dec. 16

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A stop-gap funding bill to keep the federal government operating through Dec. 16 began moving in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, as negotiators continued to argue over spending priorities in legislation that would run through September 2016.

With existing federal funds expiring at midnight on Friday and no deal yet on a major funding bill, a new temporary spending bill was introduced in the House of Representatives with the goal of passing it in the House and Senate on Friday, just before the midnight deadline.

U.S. lawmakers continued negotiating a $1.15 trillion funding bill to pay for government operations through September. But thorny issues, such as whether to include a repeal of an oil export ban or a suspension of President Barack Obama’s Syrian refugees program, were delaying a deal.

“This short-term funding resolution will keep the lights on in government and maintain current operations for a few days so Congress can complete and pass an agreement,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said in a statement.

There still could be a bumpy road to the ultimate agreement, however.

Representative Matt Salmon, a conservative who has regularly challenged his Republican leadership, told reporters he was hopeful the long-term funding bill would include new restrictions on the Syrian refugee program, despite White House opposition.

If it is included, “Guys like me will probably vote for the bill and I haven’t voted for an omnibus yet,” he said referring to the wide-ranging funding legislation.

While support from Salmon and others among the House’s most conservative members would be a boost to Speaker Paul Ryan, it is unclear whether the Senate would go along with the Syrian language given the White House’s opposition.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Eric Beech and Sandra Maler