In the latest sign that a stopgap spending measure could sail through Congress before the end of next week, the House Rules Committee on Wednesday devoted less than 10 minutes to the legislation that would fund the government for the next six months.
A room usually fraught with tense exchanges and snide one-liners (doled out during the committee's many late-night meetings) saw the top Republican and Democrat of the House Appropriations Committee speak briefly about their bill before being lauded by three Rules Committee members for their efforts. No leading questions, no terse remarks, just some pats on the back before the committee moved on to other business.
The bill's $1.047 trillion annual rate represents an increase of about $8 billion over current spending levels. Conservatives, though, support the bill -- in fact, they pushed for leadership to take it up now rather than risking the possibility that it could become tangled up in larger discussions about taxes and other spending if the measure were to be left for the post-election lame-duck session.
Republicans want to avoid allowing Democrats to use the threat of a government shutdown as leverage against them in the debate over the Bush-era tax cuts and sequestration. So conservatives agreed to a spending increase, despite having passed a fiscal 2013 budget that would cap spending at $1.028 trillion.
Congressional leadership announced a deal at the end of July on the bill, which contains no policy riders and cannot be amended on the floor. The Senate is expected to vote on it next Thursday.
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