Reuters

(Reuters)

Senate Looks to Pass Gov't Funding into March ‎

Politics Reuters

The Senate will try to pass a bill this week keeping the government operating through March 4, when the next Congress would have to work out spending priorities for the rest of the fiscal year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday.

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A Senate vote to pass the temporary funding bill is likely on Tuesday, Reid said, when existing funds to operate the government expire.

The House of Representatives would then have to sign off on the measure and send it to President Barack Obama for his expected approval.

Under the bill, most federal government programs would be funded at last year's levels through March 4.

The new Congress will be seated on January 5, with Republicans taking over control of the House. If this latest spending bill is enacted, Republicans will have a much greater say in spending priorities as they write legislation to fund the government from March 4 until October 1.

House Republicans already have said they want to trim $100 billion in spending for this fiscal year, which ends next September 30, by freezing programs at 2008 levels. That goal could run into White House opposition, leading to threats of government shutdowns if Democrats and Republicans cannot reach a compromise.

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Next year, in fact, could begin with a series of fights in Congress over spending priorities and deficit reduction, bringing a fast end to the bipartisanship that was on display earlier this month when both parties agreed on an $858 billion tax-cut bill.

The friction could impede Obama's ability to implement his signature reforms of healthcare and financial regulation, which have been approved but not funded. It also could put thousands of federal jobs at risk, cut federal grants and strain the ability of agencies to function on a nuts-and-bolts level.

Lawmakers failed to pass a budget for the current fiscal year, which started on October 1, and have extended last year's budget to fund the operation of everything from outer space activities to operating national parks.

On Friday, Congress voted unanimously to extend government funding through Tuesday to avoid a shutdown after lawmakers failed to agree on a long-term solution to a stark partisan divide over spending.

Senate Democrats had hoped to pass a detailed $1.1 trillion bill to cover spending through the end of the fiscal year. But they abandoned that effort on Thursday in the face of unified Republican opposition.