Senate advances CR as it inches toward government shut down deadline

The Senate is considering the continued spending resolution, negotiated by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), which sets the same spending levels as a government funding measure approved by the House earlier this month.

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But the Senate bill adds three full appropriations measures to the House version. The House bill, H.R. 933, funded Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs programs, while the Senate version adds appropriations for Agriculture, Homeland Security and the Commerce, Justice and Science funds.

“Number one, this avoids a government shut down,” Shelby said. “That should appeal to everyone in this body.”

If the House and Senate don’t agree on a final bill by March 27, the government will shut down.

“Do we want to make the perfect the enemy of the good?” Mikulski said. “Do we want to avoid a government shut down? Say what, Sen. Mikulski — a government shutdown? … We could actually pass a bill that the House would accept — hallelujah.”

Reid proposed that there be nine more amendment votes — mostly on GOP amendments — before final passage, but Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) objected, saying she wanted a vote on her amendment to reallocate $380 million for a missile program to the military operations and maintenance budget in light of sequester cuts.

Reid said changes to defense spending could jeopardize House approval.

“The House was very emphatic that they would not be flexible on funding defense matters,” Reid said.

Reid has said he wanted to finish work on the C.R. by the end of Monday so that the House had time to vote on the Senate changes. He also wanted to finish work on the measure so that the Senate could move onto consideration of the budget resolution in order to complete work before the Easter recess.

Unless a deal is reached, a vote on final passage of the C.R. can't occur until 30 hours after cloture is invoked.

Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Shelby voted with Democrats to advance the bill. Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) was the only Democrat to vote against the motion.

This article was updated at 7:20 p.m. to include how some senators voted.