Congress clears bill to avoid U.S. government shutdown

Congress gave final approval to legislation to avert a partial government shutdown in a rare example of bipartisan cooperation on federal spending.

The House voted 318-109 today to send the budget bill --, which would fund federal agencies through Sept. 30, the end of the 2013 fiscal year -- to President Barack Obama for his signature. The Senate passed the measure with bipartisan support yesterday, 73-26.

The legislation currently keeping agencies’ lights on expires March 27.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers called the vote a “remarkable” example of cross-party cooperation.

“I’m proud of the fact that we were able to do all of this frankly as smoothly as it has gone,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We’ve proved that when we set our mind to it, we can get complicated, hard things done and that’s what this bill does.”

The vast majority of Republicans -- 203 -- supported the measure, with just 27 voting “nay.” On the Democratic side, 115 voted for the bill and 82 opposed it.

The Senate immediately moved into a more partisan debate over the Democrats’ budget for the 2014 fiscal year, a plan that is mostly aimed at replacing the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts that began March 1 with a combination of tax increases and spending reductions.

The House today also passed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s competing fiscal 2014 tax-and-spending plan, 221-207, which calls for eliminating the deficit within a decade.

Bipartisan Cooperation

Even as they are locked in bitter disputes over taxes and entitlements, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in both chambers hailed the cooperation that went into passing the so- called “continuing resolution,” which pays for agencies’ daily operating expenses.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, thanked House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, for sending him the chamber’s first draft of the legislation --the House initially passed it on March 6 -- with plenty of time for the typically balkier Senate to act before the current funding expires. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, kept in touch with House Republicans to ensure that the hundreds of pages of changes they made to the plan were also acceptable to them.

“This is pretty good to show that we can work on a bipartisan basis, that we can actually govern and that we can conduct ourselves with decorum,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat.

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