- The Washington Times
Thursday, March 21, 2013

Acting with striking unity, Congress on Thursday passed a $1 trillion spending bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, heading off a government-shutdown showdown and beginning to rearrange some of the sequester cuts.

The 318-109 vote in the House, following a similarly easy vote in the Senate on Wednesday, could signal the beginning of a new determination in both parties to avoid the kinds of bitter last-minute showdowns that dominated the previous two years.

President Obama has signaled he will sign the measure into law.

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“It’s remarkable we’re at this point,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican.

The bill reaffirms the broad outlines of the sequester spending cuts, though it begins to tweak some specifics, including restoring money for slaughterhouse inspections and for the military’s tuition assistance program.

Overall, the bill funds the government through Sept. 30, or the end of fiscal 2013. Current funding had been slated to run out March 27, and Democrats who supported the bill said they did so because they didn’t want to see a shutdown, which would have been the result if they blocked a bill.

“I will support this bill because we cannot allow the government to shut down in six days,” said Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

The final vote saw 203 Republicans and 115 Democrats band together to pass the bill. Just 27 Republicans and 82 Democrats opposed it — chiefly those on the ideological extremes of each party.

Both the House and Senate officially reaffirmed sequester in the legislation. Still, the bill does give some flexibility to move money around in a few departments, including Homeland Security and Defense.

House Speaker John A. Boehner said other agencies always have had the ability to ask Congress for flexibility, “and we would welcome those requests.”

“The administration now has to put the sequester in place. They ought to do it in a way that, that doesn’t inconvenience the American people. And they can probably find a way if they want to,” he said.

Even as they finished work on 2013 spending, both chambers have already turned their attention to their 2014 budgets. Just minutes before it approved the spending bill, the House passed the GOP budget, written by Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, that calls for holding taxes steady and imposing deep cuts to projected spending in order to balance the budget in a decade.

The Senate, meanwhile, is debating a Democrat-written budget that calls for tax increases, but that still predicts deficits for the foreseeable future. On Thursday evening, the upper chamber rejected Mr. Ryan’s budget on a 59-40 vote.

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