The Latest: Conservative House group considering budget deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the budget battle in Congress (all times local):

9:40 a.m.

The hard-right House Freedom Caucus is showing an openness to a deal that would prevent a partial government shutdown this weekend.

The group's members say Republicans must focus on passing the GOP's prized tax bill.

The North Carolina congressman who leads the caucus says any distraction from taxes — including a shutdown — would be a problem.

Mark Meadows and several others in the roughly 30-member group aren't ruling out backing a leadership-backed spending measure that would expire Dec. 22. They plan to talk to leaders later Wednesday.

The caucus has wanted the spending bill to run an additional week. They say the shorter version would tempt Republicans to cut a deal with Democrats so Congress could go home for Christmas.

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2:50 a.m.

Top Republicans are trying to smooth over GOP divisions over the budget as leaders work to push through a short-term spending bill by week's end and avert a partial government shutdown.

Republican leaders have postponed a planned House vote on the temporary spending measure until Thursday. That buys time to iron out disputes with conservatives seeking tighter budget curbs.

The delay shows the clout that conservatives hold.