Senate vote averting federal shutdown for now; Obama calls for long-term budget negotiations
Updated, 1:15 p.m.
The Senate on Wednesday averted a federal government shutdown for at least two weeks, approving a stopgap measure that would keep it funded through March 18 and sending the bill on to President Obama for his signature.
The bill, which would cut $4 billion in spending by targeting programs that Obama has already marked for elimination, passed on a 91-to-9 vote, one day after it was approved by the House.
Obama is expected to sign the bill. If he did not sign by Friday, the federal government would be forced to shut down.
The agreement on the two-week plan buys Congress time while it works on a measure to fund the government for the remaining seven months of this fiscal year -- likely to be a harder task.
Obama urged the two parties to come together to reach a permanent solution to the budget impasse, even as he said he was "pleased" with a two-week agreement.
He said he would enlist Vice President Biden, White House Chief of Staff William Daley and Budget Director Jacob Lew to meet with congressional leaders to hash out a long-term agreement.
"I'm pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together and passed a plan that will cut spending and keep the government running for the next two weeks. But we cannot keep doing business this way," Obama said in a statement released after the Senate passed the continuing resolution. "Living with the threat of a shutdown every few weeks is not responsible, and it puts our economic progress in jeopardy."
The House passed a measure last month that would reduce spending during that seven-month period by $61 billion. The Democrats who have a Senate majority say those cuts are too deep and would hurt both the economy and needed programs. The president has said he would veto that bill.
Republican leaders on Wednesday declined to say whether they would join the White House-led budget talks. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a Capitol news conference with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Senate Democrats must now either take up the House-passed bill or propose their own plan.
"Passing the short-term bill gives Senate Democrats two more weeks to either consider [the House-passed long-term bill] or outline their own plan for how we move ahead," Boehner said. "Americans have the right to know where Senate Democrats plan to cut spending to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year is. And so, we're waiting for them, and hopefully we'll see something from them soon."
"We just heard about this suggestion of the people who are supposed to be invited to a discussion on the way in here, so we'll take a look at what they have to say," McConnell said. "But obviously if I were you, I would be asking Senate Democrats how they feel about commencing such a discussion."
According to Don Stewart, McConnell's deputy chief of staff, the White House has made no formal invitation yet to congressional leaders beyond the statement that was circulated to reporters Wednesday afternoon. Stewart added that Republican leaders are "happy to look at whatever they propose" but emphasized that Senate Democrats have yet to make a proposal of their own.
Much distance remains between Senate Democrats and House Republicans on a longer-term measure, a factor Democratic leaders acknowledged Wednesday.
"We know that the final outcome will lie somewhere in between" the spending level proposed by Senate Democrats and the $61 billion in cuts over seven months favored by House Republicans, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a Capitol news conference with Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
In addition, the House-passed bill contains more than 60 amendments, many of which are strongly opposed by Senate Democrats, such as cuts to federal funding of Planned Parenthood and funding of public broadcasting.
Reid indicated Wednesday that Senate Democrats will work to oppose the inclusion of those riders in a long-term spending measure.
"They're going to go away," Reid said of the riders on the House-passed bill. "Let them bring these riders they have in individual pieces of legislation. They can pass these pretty easy in the House; send them over here."
Durbin told reporters after the vote that he was so personally opposed to some of the cuts that he planned to filibuster them if they reached the Senate, although he did elaborate on which specific cuts he would try to block.
"I will tell you something. It's only going to speak personally, not for the caucus: some of the cuts that they have put in this budget I will never vote for; I will filibuster," Durbin said.
"I just think they're an outrage, some of the things that they're doing with education and in research and science, I just think are awful. I mean, they literally took a hacksaw for brain surgery, as far as I'm concerned. And it was a blunt instrument and a blunt result."
Among the nine "no" votes on the two-week plan Wednesday were five Republicans -- Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho) and Mike Crapo (Idaho) -- three Democrats -- Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) -- and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
Some voting against the measure criticized it for not making deep enough cuts. Lee, a freshman and founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's vote that he opposed the two-week plan, which was put forth by House Republicans late last week, calling it "a disappointing failure on the part of both parties to seriously address the economic meltdown we face from our massive deficit and growing national debt."
Some Democrats, meanwhile, had expressed reservations about the plan, arguing that it would make cuts to education and other programs without making investments to balance them out.
Staff writers Lori Montgomery and Perry Bacon Jr. also contributed to this report.
| March 2, 2011; 1:15 PM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee to vote against stopgap government funding plan
Next: House to test reusable dishware
Posted by: LarryG62 | March 2, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: JTF- | March 2, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: blasmaic | March 2, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: GordonCash | March 2, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: lcwilson | March 2, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Realist201 | March 2, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jimbo77 | March 2, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lefty_ | March 2, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Straightline | March 2, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: massmedia77 | March 2, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rtatisma | March 2, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sinnersunited | March 2, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: roscym1 | March 2, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: hebe1 | March 2, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BlueTwo1 | March 2, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: seldoc1 | March 2, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Ve1ostrummer | March 2, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kbalderson | March 2, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kishorgala | March 2, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: forgetthis | March 2, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rbraun2000 | March 2, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: vmidurk | March 2, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: seanncn | March 2, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: vmidurk | March 2, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PolifauxMatrix | March 2, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PolifauxMatrix | March 2, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kishorgala | March 2, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: esquire2 | March 2, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ppolicy127 | March 2, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lwalker4 | March 2, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: neilo1 | March 3, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: neilo1 | March 3, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: neilo1 | March 3, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse