Stopgap spending bill passes in the Senate
The Senate this afternoon passed a spending bill to fund federal operations for the next six months, bringing Congress one step closer to avoiding a government shutdown.
The spending bill, called a continuing resolution, passed 73 to 26. More than 20 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., voted against it.
Now the legislation goes to the House, which passed its own version of the spending bill two weeks ago. House Republican leadership aides told CBS News they do not expect any changes so the bill, which would then go to President Obama for his signature. Congress is aiming to finish the legislation before leaving for its Easter recess at the end of the week. If they failed to pass some kind of continuing resolution before March 27, the federal government would partially shut down.
Earlier this week, some Republican senators were holding up the bill, insisting on holding votes on various amendments to the legislation. However, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., managed to broker a deal to hold votes on the amendments and get the $984 billion spending bill passed.
Afterwards, Mikulski called the bill's passage an "enormous victory." The work she accomplished with Shelby, she said, demonstrated that "we can work on a bipartisan basis and actually govern, and that we can conduct ourselves with decorum... At the end of the day, I think we all agree on our goals. We want to keep America moving."
The bill doesn't reverse the sequestration cuts that have hit federal agencies, including the Defense Department, across the board. It does, however, give the Defense Department and other domestic programs extra funding. Additionally, an amendment was added to stop from furloughing meat inspectors. The Senate, however, rejected an amendment that would have allocated money to keep White House tours from shutting down -- one of the unpopular effects of sequestration.
The House plans to take up the spending bill tomorrow, as well as the 2014 budget proposal drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. A number of other substitute 2014 budgets will also get a vote, so various groups can lay out where they stand on the issues of deficit reduction and spending priorities.
The groups putting forward substitute budgets include the conservative Republican Study Committee, which would balance the budget in four years in part by raising the Social Security eligibility age to 70; the House Democrats, who would raise taxes on high income earners through closing loopholes and invest in infrastructure and research; and progressives, who would let all Bush-era tax rates to expire for families making over $250,000 per year.
Ryan's budget, however, is the only one expected to pass in the GOP-led House. Ryan's budget would balance the federal budget in 10 years by restricting future annual increases in spending, it would overhaul Medicare and it would implement widespread non-defense discretionary cuts. Among other things, it would also implement significant tax reforms and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
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