Congress passes bill funding government through September

The Senate, acting shortly after the House, voted 81 to 19 to pass a continuing resolution funding the federal government through the end of September, effectively ending a months-long fight that nearly shut down the government this week. President Obama is expected to sign the bill by Friday, but Washington has already moved on to bigger spending battles, with a critical vote to raise the federal debt limit, the FY12 budget and long-term deficit reduction all in play. The six-month bill, which funds the government for the rest of this fiscal year, is the product of a last minute deal last Friday. It will cut about $38.5 billion from current spending levels, though critics argue accounting gimmicks leave the real reductions far smaller. Vocal opposition from some conservatives and at least one liberal, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., never amounted to a real threat in the Senate, where support from the leadership of both parties assured passage. Despite criticism, opponents like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., passed on filibustering the bill and instead allowed a quick vote on Thursday following House passage a few hours earlier. The quick vote allowed senators to head home on schedule for the Easter recess, and prevented any renewed threat of a government shutdown. The spending bill was the product of negotiations that went to the 11th hour between House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House. In the House, some Republicans-particularly tea party-backed freshmen-were disappointed with the package. But the House passed the bill by a vote of 260-167, surmounting the biggest legislative hurdle the CR faced following the last-minute deal that averted a government shutdown. Eighty-one Democrats gave House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the votes needed for the bill's passage. Despite concerns, most Republicans rallied behind Boehner, saying they were eager to move on to bigger spending battles. In all, 59 Republicans voted against the measure.
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