Very quietly, House passes spending bill to fund government through September
The fiscal cliff and the sequester has apparently exhausted both Republicans and the White House. Neither side seemed willing to go a third round over the continuing resolution that must be passed by March 27 or the government will shut down.
The House passed their version of the con res yesterday. Only 14 Republicans voted against it - a vindication of sorts for Speaker Boehner who has had trouble bringing his caucus along with him on previous votes.
The bill would allow the defense department a little more leeway in deciding on budget cuts as a result of the sequester. Domestic spending would stay as it is.
Senate lawmakers may tussle over spending on the health-care law and implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial law, but neither issue is expected to bog down the spending legislation.
The House bill funds the government at a rate of $982 billion over fiscal 2013 and includes $85 billion in spending reductions from the sequester.
A total of 53 Democrats joined most Republicans in support of the bill while 14 Republicans voted against it, relatively few defections compared with other spending votes in the House over the past couple of years.
Both chambers must agree to a final version of the bill by March 27, otherwise the federal government faces the prospect of its first partial shutdown since 1996.
Senior lawmakers in both chambers have said there is little appetite on either side of the political aisle for such an outcome.
Lawmakers already are turning their focus to budget proposals for fiscal 2014 and beyond. Both the House and Senate are expected to release budget frameworks next week that will spell out starkly different views of the future of the role of the federal government.
Two things of note. First, a victory for Republicans as the sequester is going to stand - at least through September. Second, it appears the Senate will be the scene of action for the next round of budget negotiations. The president had a private dinner with GOP Senators last night and both sides came away optimistic that a "Grand Bargain" could be achieved before the end of the fiscal year.
The House will not vote for a budget that has one dollar less than the sequester would have cut next year. But they will probably accept other savings and perhaps even the closing of tax loopholes - something near and dear to Obama's heart.
The Congress will now turn its attention to gun control and immigration reform. Any hope that the budget bill just passed would change the mood in Congress will be quickly dashed when the fur begins to fly over those two contentious issues.