Senate passes bill to keep government running through Dec.

The Senate easily passed a bill on a 69-30 vote Wednesday night to keep the government running through early December, sending the measure to House where it is expected to pass. 


Lawmakers defeated two Republican amendments Wednesday night -- one to change the expiration date of the legislation from Dec. 3 to Feb. 4 and another to cut non-defense discretionary spending by 5 percent -- before voting on final passage. 

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The measure is headed to the House Rules Committee and should be cleared by the House around midnight, according to senior Democratic aides. President Obama will sign the bill before the new fiscal year begins on Friday. 

Overall, the continuing resolution reduces spending of discretionary programs by $8.2 billion, according to a summary released Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

The legislation funds the government at the current year's, fiscal 2010, spending levels and doesn't include the additional $20 billion in spending requests made by the Obama administration, essentially ensuring its passage. The request included funding for Pell Grants, the cash-strapped Postal Service and the implementation of the healthcare and financial regulation reform bills. 

House and Senate Republicans threatened to hold up any bill that added spending for other programs. 

The continuing resolution became necessary when lawmakers failed to push through any of the fiscal 2011 spending bills. 

The vote on final passage brings to a close in the Senate a shortened legislative session dominated by discussions over whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. 

Decisions on those issues will wait until the lame-duck session, set to begin Nov. 15 in both chambers. 

The Senate voted down an amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to cut 5 percent in spending. It was withdrawn after it failed to reach a 60-vote threshold, falling on a 48-51 vote, set up as part of a bipartisan agreement. 

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) also had to withdraw his amendment -- which would've changed the expiration date of the stopgap measure from Dec. 3 to Feb. 4. The amendment failed on a 39-60 vote.

Although the bill is expected to pass the House, Republicans continued Wednesday to call for an overall reduction in spending back to 2008 levels. 

House Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) has offered a plan to cut spending back "to pre-bailout and pre-stimulus 2008 levels, which would save the taxpayers nearly $100 billion." 

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.

It also extends the application period for retroactive stop-loss benefits.

The measure adjusts the current rate of operations for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons program to $7 billion, a $624 million increase over this year's level to account for the START Treaty.

The bill also retains $700 million in spending for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF). 

In addition, the bill provides 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.

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

Under the bill, Census program spending will be reduced by more than $7 billion this year, to $964 million a year, the same as the amount recommended for fiscal 2011.

Finally, another provision provides $193,400 for the survivors of Robert C. Byrd, the late Senator from West Virginia.