WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress approved legislation last week to fund the federal government for another six months, averting a shutdown and softening the impact of automatic across-the-board spending cuts required under sequestration.
The federal government has been operating under a series of short-term spending resolutions since the 2013 fiscal year began in October. The latest one expires on March 27.
The $984 billion spending bill will keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. It includes $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that were triggered earlier this month under a 2011 debt limit agreement.
The final bill, however, also eases the blow of the so-called sequestration cuts by including additional funding for military operations as well as a measure to ensure that meat and poultry inspectors are not furloughed.
Despite lobbying from individual lawmakers, Congress did not restore funds to keep air traffic control towers open at smaller airports. It also did not provide funds to reopen public tours of the White House.
The Senate voted for the bill, 73-26.
Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., voted for it.
The House approved the bill, 318-109.
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., voted for the bill.
Debate over the 2014 budget took a partisan divide last week as the House and Senate disagreed on how to reduce future deficits.
The House approved a budget resolution authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would eliminate annual deficits in a decade through cuts in non-defense programs. It also called for a tax system overhaul and a restructuring of Medicare.
Republicans said the measure was tough but responsible to control government spending and foster economic growth. Democrats uniformly opposed the Ryan budget, calling it misguided and ruinous.
“Once again, House Republicans doubled down on a budget that will risk two million jobs next year, stall our economic recovery, raise taxes on the middle class, and end the Medicare guarantee. That is not a ‘path to prosperity;’ it is a ‘path to pain’ for working families, children, seniors, and our economy,” said Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The House approved the resolution, 221-207, with 197 Democrats and 10 Republicans in opposition.
Herrera Beutler supported the resolution Kilmer voted against it.
On the Senate floor, debate continued late into Friday on a budget resolution proposed by Murray, that would reduce — but not eliminate — annual deficits. The plan called for about $1trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in tax hikes over 10 years.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, lashed out at Senate Democrats for considering a budget that “never balances — ever.” The result, he said, means “more debt, fewer jobs and less security for the American people.”
The Senate debate began Thursday and included votes on dozens of nonbinding amendments mostly designed to score political points ahead of the 2014 elections.
Among the amendments, the Senate voted against the Ryan budget, 40-59.
Cantwell and Murray opposed it.
The Senate voted against repealing President Obama’s signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 45-54.
Cantwell and Murray opposed repeal.
And, the Senate rejected, 45-54, a measure to prohibit tax increases when the unemployment rate exceeds 5.5 percent.
Cantwell and Murray voted against the proposal.