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Congress sets new D-day for government shutdown: April 8

The Senate votes to fund the federal government through April 8. But the stalemate over 2011 spending remains, and no one wants to pass another short-term stopgap. Is the stage now set for a government shutdown next month?

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For their part, Democrats say House Republicans must drop the partisan policy riders on their budget – for example, to defund implementation of health-care reform, block EPA moves to regulate greenhouse gases, or end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

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“Our position is that the riders have to be off the bill,” said Senator Schumer. “It’s hard enough to deal with the numbers without adding these controversial riders.”

In response, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that policy provisions in funding bills are routine. “Senator Schumer has voted for hundreds, if not thousands of them,” he said in an e-mail.

Prospects for a deal

Meanwhile, bipartisan efforts are under way to find a compromise on spending for FY 2011 and beyond. In the Senate, a six-member, bipartisan team has been negotiating how to move forward on recommendations from President Obama’s fiscal commission. Sens. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee and Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri are building support for a measure to cap federal spending and “put Congress in a straitjacket.”

“We’re building momentum,” said Senator Corker.

In addition, Representative Cantor and Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma announced a new effort to implement a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified $100 billion in duplicative and wasteful programs. House whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland is participating in this effort, they said.

“This report shows Congress could spend the rest of the year going program by program and produce massive savings while improving the quality of services across the government,” Senator Coburn said in a statement.

Still, with discussions at the top leadership level stalled, a breakthrough on spending for the balance of the fiscal year will be needed to avoid a shutdown.

“There will not be the votes for another short-term CR,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California after Thursday’s vote.

Negotiations at a staff level between the White House and congressional leaders are expected to continue this week as the House and Senate head home for a recess next week.

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