Senate approves 2011 spending bill, sends to the president

In an 81 to 19 bipartisan vote the Senate on Thursday afternoon passed a bill based on last week's leadership agreement that would fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. The House passed the bill hours earlier. 

With President Obama's signature, H.R. 1473 would cut $39.9 billion from the budget over the remaining six months of fiscal 2011.

Forty-one Democrats, 32 Republicans and one independent voted in favor of the bill. 

"It represents bipartisan agreement reached between leaders in the House, the White House and the Senate with the details being worked out by members of appropriations,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) in calling on his colleagues to support the bill Thursday afternoon. “It includes cuts bigger than what I was comfortable with, but it is dramatically superior to what passed through the House months ago and equally superior to not passing a budget." 

Prior to the vote, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), for example, called the budget proposal “a slapdash continuing resolution” and said he would oppose it. 

"I will not be able to vote for it," said Leahy. "I am afraid it creates a Faustian bargain. It averts a government shutdown at the cost of our overall national interest. It ignores the fact that the discretionary spending is just a fraction of the government's overall spending."

“The budget bill that we're talking about has now been scored by the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] and will cut almost nothing, maybe a couple hundred millions,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who also opposed the bill. “Our overall spending will be bigger this year than last year. We are not yet serious in Washington. We have not yet here recognized the severity, the enormity and the significance of how big this deficit is.”

But several senators including Inouye said they see hope in the ability of the two parties and two chambers to reach a compromise that will keep the government funded.

"Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] needed Democrats to pass last year's budget, and he will need them again this year," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Earlier in the afternoon the House approved the bill by a 260-167 bipartisan vote.

Preceding that vote the Senate defeated two healthcare resolutions that would amend the spending bill to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood and defund last year's healthcare law. Both resolutions were passed by the GOP-controlled House.

The president is expected to sign the funding bill before the current continuing resolution expires on Friday.