Congress promises quick legislation to fund government, avoid shutdowns
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.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 3 shot outside Texas cartoon exhibit of Muhammad artwork
- Curfew lifted in Baltimore
- U.S. intel misjudged al-Qaida, ex-CIA official’s book says
- Bullying bad for children’s mental health, study hints
- Researchers find new, elusive bird species
- Ex-convict arraigned in New York City police officer’s shooting
- Boehner urges Clinton to push trade measures
- Vertical land movement causing Duck, N.C., beach to sink
- Number of clinics, abortions down in Ohio amid flurry of limiting laws
- NFL plans to drop tax-exempt status
- Baltimore State’s Attorney Mosby quick to act, quicker to take control in Gray’s death