(Changes Senate in last paragraph to House)
WASHINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday took a step toward averting a partial government shutdown at the end of this week, approving rules to debate a bill that would fund federal agencies through Jan. 19.
Also cleared for debate was an $81 billion disaster aid bill to help U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from a series of recent natural disasters.
House votes on both bills were expected later on Thursday. (Reporting by Richard Cowan; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bill Trott)