See, Washington can get along! The government shutdown that didn't happen.
The Senate agreed Wednesday to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. The House is expected to follow suit Thursday. This clears the deck for the bigger battle ahead.
Rest easy, America: Congress is going to make sure the government doesn’t shut down just after Easter – even though you’ve got to continue living under the sequesterSkip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Senate passed what’s known as a “continuing resolution” on Wednesday night by a vote of 73 to 26, with all but one Democrat joining 19 Republicans. The measure would keep government operations running from March 27 until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. That gives Washington time to have a robust debate about deficits, entitlement reform, and taxes as part of the negotiations over next fiscal year's budget.
The House of Representatives is expected to take up and pass the continuing resolution Thursday afternoon.
While the bill left the automatic, across-the-board spending reductions known as the “sequester” in place, a bipartisan team of legislators in both chambers deftly handled the measure so that it did not turn into a political conflagration and threaten a government shutdown.
“This is pretty good to show that we can work in a bipartisan basis, that we can actually govern, and that we can conduct ourselves with decourm,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Maryland, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee who shepherded the bill through the Senate, on the Senate floor after the bill’s passage. “For all who watched the debate here in the last week, they saw civility, they saw sensibility.”
The process began when House Republicans led by Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, passed a government funding measure that updated the budgets for the Defense Department, veterans affairs, and military construction. Because Congress has failed to pass many appropriations bills in recent years, many government agencies are running under budgets that are out-of-date.
By updating spending priorities, then, House Republicans were able to reallocate resources to better uses without raising the politically messy issue of altering the sequester, which began falling across nearly all government priorities on March 1.
To the House bill, Senator Mikulski and the top Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, added updated budgets for other federal departments, including Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, as well as government science spending.
Senate leaders also allowed a handful of slight tweaks to the bill, such as a bipartisan amendment brought by Sen. Roy Blunt (R) of Missouri and Sen. Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas that will keep food inspectors on the job.