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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.

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All the while, Mikulski and Senator Shelby stayed in close contact with both Senate and House leaders to ensure the final package would be able to be taken up whole by the House before both chambers leave Friday for the two-week home work period around the Easter holiday.

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The orderly, assiduously bipartisan process was a stark departure from the teeth-gritting budget negotiations of years gone by, where Republicans would use the need to extend government funding or to raise the debt ceiling as a point of leverage against Democrats.

But even so, many Republicans opposed the bill because some, like Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona and Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma, dug up a handful of spending they found wasteful but could not get expunged from the final legislation.

Given the scope of the legislation, plenty of lawmakers were frustrated by being unable to offer amendments of interest to their state.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R) of Kansas slowed consideration of the entire measure for more than a day in what turned into a vain attempt to force a vote on his preferred amendment, which would have helped shield some air traffic controllers at rural airports from being cut. Sen. Rob Portman (R) of Ohio opposed the measure in part because he’d rather NASA invest in existing facilities – including two in Ohio – than build new ones.

By giving Congress six months of running room, many lawmakers in both chambers have expressed the hope that Congress will return to the “regular order” of passing the 12 individual appropriations bills needed to update funding for all government spending in the months to come rather than risk another government shutdown fight come the fall.

“Passing government funding through the end of the fiscal year and averting yet another crisis at the end of the month is a responsible decision and another sign that both parties are ready to embrace an orderly process,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia in a statement. “I look forward to our next chance to put the old governing by crisis playbook to rest.”

But beyond the bill’s bipartisan legacy, it also locked in the cuts from the sequester – something President Obama vowed would not happen on the campaign trail and up until several months ago congressional Republicans were committed to replacing.

And actual spending reductions, even if achieved in a less-than-optimal, across-the-board fashion, were worth cheering by Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill.

“Many times in Washington something that is called a spending cut isn’t actually a cut; it just means spending is growing more slowly than it did the year before,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, a leading advocate of a sweeping “grand bargain” to the nation’s fiscal predicament, in a statement. “This continuing resolution is significant because it contains real cuts. Total discretionary spending for this fiscal year will actually be lower than last fiscal year – and in Washington, that’s a good first step.”


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