| USWorld

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Congress promises quick legislation to fund government, avoid shutdowns

Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Tuesday that Republicans and Democrats might have a deal on funding the federal government by the end of the month. Getty Images

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Reuters
Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Congress is moving rapidly to pass legislation funding the federal government through Sept. 30, as Senate leaders on Tuesday expressed eagerness to avoid any threat of agency shutdowns when money runs out on March 27.

“I'm cautiously optimistic we're going to reach a solution before we leave here for the Easter recess,” which is scheduled to begin on March 23, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

Reid's Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, gave a similarly upbeat assessment, telling reporters, “There seems to be no interest on either side in having a kind of confrontational government shutdown scenario.”

Their comments follow Republicans' introduction of a funding bill in the House of Representatives that will keep in place $85 billion worth of controversial, across-the-board spending reductions triggered on Friday.

The House measure, expected to win passage on Wednesday, aims to partially shield some defense and veterans' programs from the indiscriminate cuts by including two updated military-related spending bills. It will shift some funding to security-related efforts such as border and embassy security, prisons and FBI operations.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, expressed frustration with the lack of flexibility for domestic programs such as education in the Republican plan.

“It's only guns. We need butter,” Mikulski said.

The White House said it was concerned that domestic agencies would be forced to operate under older, more restrictive spending. In a statement, it said it would work with Congress to “refine the legislation” and would keep pressing lawmakers for a replacement to the automatic sequester cuts.

Next week, Senate Democrats will move their version of the bill for a vote and are likely to add funding flexibility for some domestic programs, party aides said.

Both the House and Senate versions are expected to cap discretionary spending at $1.043 trillion for the full 2013 fiscal year, but this would be reduced to around $982 billion if the sequester cuts remain in place.

Over the past couple of years, these short-term government funding bills, called “continuing resolutions,” have been used as leverage by Republicans to try to lower spending. Amid Democratic resistance to some of the deeper spending cuts sought by Republicans, there were fears that negotiations would break down, forcing widespread shuttering of government agencies.

With House Republican conservatives feeling more confident now that they have locked in the $85 billion in new savings for the next seven months, the appetite for yet another showdown seems to have waned.

Once the funding bill for the remainder of this fiscal year is enacted, Congress promptly will turn to its next fiscal battle: a budget blueprint for the next fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan next week is expected to release an ambitious budget blueprint that aims to achieve balance in 10 years. But to achieve this, he may have to row back on at least one promise he made last year as the Republican vice presidential candidate — that any cuts to the Medicare health program will not affect anyone 55 or older.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Obama orders steeper emission cuts from power plants
  2. West Virginia on pace to issue record number of concealed-carry permits
  3. 5,000 homes in peril of Northern Calif. wildfire
  4. Phoenix man accused of beheading wife, dogs jailed on $2M bail
  5. Manhunt under way for suspect in Memphis officer’s killing
  6. Tent blows off mooring, kills 1 near Chicago
  7. GOP leaders aloof as Texas Attorney General Paxton indicted for securities fraud
  8. Wreckage from Challenger, Columbia goes on display
  9. Finish 44-year Hamtramck housing bias case soon, judge tells lawyers
  10. Veterans notified of info breach in South Dakota
  11. Hitchhiking robot’s journey west cut short in Philly