Senate moves to measure to keep government running

The Senate voted 84-14 on Tuesday to end debate and move to consideration of a stopgap spending measure to avoid a government shutdown later this week.

Senators could vote on final passage of the legislation Wednesday, then head out of town to campaign for the November midterm elections. 

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House also intends to clear the continuing resolution on Wednesday. 

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. But it didn't slow down the measure Tuesday.

Approval of the continuing resolution is necessary because Congress hasn't completed any of the 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal 2011. 

The resolution allows federal programs to operate at the spending levels of the previous year. The measure is a target for additional spending because it is probably the last vehicle that will be approved by Congress before the election.

The details of the continuing resolution (CR) hadn't been released at the time of the vote by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), but they are expected soon. 

Although Senate Republicans have said they wouldn't slow passage of the CR, their colleagues in the House have said they might block the bill if it's not within certain spending levels.

Senate Republicans and centrist Democrats led by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are insisting on lower spending levels. House and Senate Republicans are pushing to lock in 2011 spending at 2008 levels.

For the 12 spending bills for 2011, Democrats have said they’re willing to fund the government at levels lower than those requested by the Obama administration, which called for a three-year freeze on all discretionary spending unrelated to security. 

Jay Heflin and Walter Alarkon contributed.

This story was updated at 3:25 p.m. to reflect the new vote count because Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) changed his vote from 'no' to 'yes.'