House averts government shutdown

The House on Thursday averted a looming government shutdown by approving legislation that will keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year.

The $984 billion spending bill passed by a vote of 318 to 109.

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill cleared the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 73 to 26 and now heads to President Obama’s desk.

"Passing this measure allows us to keep our focus where it belongs: replacing the president’s sequester with smarter cuts that help balance the budget, fixing our broken tax code to create jobs and increase wages, protecting priorities like Medicare, and expanding opportunity for all Americans," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.

The legislation reflects a carefully coordinated compromise between appropriators in the House and Senate and their leaders, all of whom wanted to prevent a government shutdown. The bill currently providing funding for the government would have expired on March 28.

"This legislation provides funding for essential federal programs and services, it maintains our national security, and takes a potential government shutdown off the table," Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said.

Majorities in both parties favored the bill, though it was more popular with Republicans than Democrats. The GOP vote was 203-27, with two members not voting, while the Democratic vote was 115-82, with three members not voting.

Committee members were given latitude by House GOP leaders to work out a deal, so long as it did not reverse the $85 billion in sequestration cuts that went into effect on March 1.

Republicans and Democrats are still at loggerheads over how to replace those cuts, with the White House insisting that new tax revenue should be included and the GOP arguing that no new taxes should replace the spending cuts.

The government-funding measure, which lasts through Sept. 30, contains full, detailed appropriations bills covering the departments of Defense; Commerce; Justice; Veterans Affairs; Agriculture and Homeland Security, as well as for science agencies like NASA and military construction activities.

The rest of the federal government will operate on autopilot, and the bill does not include new funding to implement President Obama’s healthcare and financial reform laws.

Despite this, the bill got widespread support from Democrats, some of whom said they wanted to avoid a shutdown.

“Like any compromise, this measure is far from perfect,” said Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who voted for the bill. “Nevertheless, a government shutdown could wreak havoc on our already fragile economic recovery and must be prevented.”

Only two House appropriations subcommittee chairmen voted against the spending bill: Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the labor, health chairman who may run for Senate against naysayer Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the interior, environment chairman.

Some Democrats protested the bill during debate. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said she opposes it because it maintains the sequester, and even Lowey said the sequester is still a problem.

“I remain deeply dissatisfied that sequestration is not addressed, and will, and will slash the very priorities I believe all of us came here to fulfill,” Lowey said. “These $68 billion in detrimental cuts will diminish services Americans depend on, job growth and our overall economy.”

The bill moves some money around within agency budgets to try to help them better deal with sequestration.

The original House bill ensured the Defense Department’s operations budget received $11 billion more to ensure the Pentagon remains battle-ready.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) negotiated dozens of smaller changes to the measure, none of which were objectionable to House GOP leaders.

The full Senate also adopted some amendments shifting money around, including one by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to prevent furloughs of meat inspectors.

It rejected others, like one by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to keep White House tours running, and never considered others, such as one by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to keep air traffic control towers open.

The Transportation Department opposed that amendment without explanation, Moran said. He alleged that the White House wants to keep the pain of sequestration in place to get its way on taxes.

Updated at 11:30 a.m.

More in Senate

Thursday: Averting a shutdown, Defense bill

Read more »