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U.S. Senate casts first vote to advance government spending bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday began advancing a bill to keep the government operating beyond September 30 when funding for this fiscal year runs out, as it cleared away a procedural hurdle that some Republicans had erected.

The Senate unanimously agreed to limit early debate on the measure in the hope of passing a bill by this weekend. But battles over the legislation were expected to continue in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Senate Democrats intend to remove from the spending bill a controversial House-passed provision that would defund President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; editing by Christopher Wilson)