Senate Democrats eager to pass spending measure and leave D.C.

Democrats eager to return to the campaign trail are rushing to hold a vote on a continuing resolution that would fund the government until the lame-duck session.

The Senate is zipping through its work on the spending measure, which could be completed Wednesday if Republicans agree to waive procedural objections.

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The Senate was scheduled to stay in town through next week but has opted instead to leave a stack of bills for the post-election session, including any decisions on the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to Washington until Nov. 15.

Democrats in the House, who are just as eager to return home, given the challenging election outlook for their party, are expected to bring up a vote on the resolution within hours of Senate passage, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

The continuing resolution, which will fund most existing programs at current spending levels through Dec. 3, reduces overall funding by $9 billion, according to a draft summary released Tuesday afternoon by Senate Democrats.

In order to avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers need to clear the legislation before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The continuing resolution is a target for additional spending because it is probably the last bill that will be approved by Congress before the elections.

The Obama administration is asking lawmakers to include about $20 billion for Pell Grants, the cash-strapped Postal Service and the implementation of the healthcare and financial regulation reform bills. That effort has run into opposition from Republicans who want a “clean” resolution without additions.

Negotiations were reportedly ongoing on any additions, according to Democratic aides.

The bill extends spending authorizations for several high-profile programs. It would allow the Federal Air Marshals to maintain their coverage of international and domestic flights and fully fund the workforce of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The bill would also provide an additional $25 million to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, formerly the Minerals Management Service, for increased oil rig inspections in the Gulf of Mexico. The increase in funding is fully offset with a $25 million rescission of unobligated balances.

In addition, the measure extends the Temporary Assistance For Needy Families block grant and the Child Care Entitlement to States program at their current spending levels.

Approval of the continuing resolution is necessary because Congress has not completed any appropriations bills for fiscal 2011.

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate voted 84-14 to end debate and move forward on the stopgap spending measure.

This story was originally posted at 6:14 p.m. and updated at 8:25 p.m.