House passes 3-week spending bill

Wednesday - 3/16/2011, 8:00am EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The House passed a three-week spending bill Tuesday that will fund government through April 8. The final vote was 271 to 158, with four not voting. The Senate must now pass the bill and the President must sign it to avert a government shutdown. The current continuing resolution expires Friday.

The latest stopgap funding measure would cut spending by $6 billion. The current proposal is the sixth short-term spending bill this fiscal year as Congress has failed to reach a compromise on a longer-term budget solution.

"A government shutdown is not an option, period," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) in a statement. "While short term funding measures are not the preferable way to fund the government, we must maintain critical programs and services for the American people until Congress comes to a final, long-term agreement."

According to the House Appropriations Committee website, $3.5 billion of the proposed cuts come to terminating programs, including:

  • Homeland Security - Customs and Border Protection - Construction: $107 million.
  • Social Security - Internet Technology Funds - $200 million
  • Agriculture - Single Family Housing = $144 million
  • Commerce - Census Rescission = $1.74 billion.
  • Labor - Community Service Employment for Older Americans = $225 million
  • Health and Human Services - Parklawn Building Lease = $35 million
  • National Park Service - Construction Funding Rescission - $25 million

The White House is urging the Senate to pass the bill to avoid a government shutdown, according to a White House statement. However, the administration also said the government could not continue being funded by temporary spending bills.

"There is no disagreement on whether to cut spending to put us on a path to live within our means, but we can't sacrifice critical investments that will help us out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our global competitors to win the future," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in the statement. "We have already met Republicans halfway, and we are optimistic that Congress can get this done."

Prospects for agreement on a longer-term measure remain uncertain, however, as Republicans dominating the House are insistent on a measure mixing steep spending cuts with numerous policy provisions, including a ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood and a measure to strike money to bankroll implementation of President Barack Obama's signature health care law. The longer-term measure contains those provisions, as well as language to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating emissions believed to contribute to global warming.

Those policy riders are strongly opposed by Democrats and Obama and are likely to be at the center of any impasse that leads to a partial government shutdown.

"They are using the budget to try and shoot the moon on a wish list of far-right policy measures. If this debate were about spending cuts we could probably come to an agreement before too long," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "We do not want any of these controversial riders to be in the bill. That's the bottom line."

At issue are the daily operating budgets of dozens of federal agencies that have been kept open under a series of stopgap bills since the 2011 budget year began last October. Last month, House Republicans passed a $1.2 trillion measure that makes sweeping cuts to the domestic programs _ averaging about 13 percent _ that Congress funds every year. The cuts would feel almost twice as big since they would be stuffed into the second half of the budget year ending Sept. 30 and would likely lead to furloughs of thousands of federal workers.

Both the long- and short-term spending measure are required because Democrats controlling Congress last year failed to enact a single one of the 12 annual appropriations bills.

Democrats left the country with the current budget problems, said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who added: "They should not complain about how we try to clean this up."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

RELATED STORIES

Budget Resource Page

Shutdown Coverage

Federal furlough FAQ

(Copyright 2011 by FederalNewsRadio.com. All Rights Reserved.)