House Approves Two-Week Spending Bill

BY Quinn Bowman  March 1, 2011 at 4:36 PM EST

The House took a major step toward averting a federal government shutdown Tuesday by passing a bill that would extend government funding until March 18, giving Congress two weeks to hammer out a compromise on a longer-term funding solution. The measure also cuts $4 billion from current spending.

In a 335 to 91 vote, all but six House Republicans, joined by a majority 104 Democrats, approved a measure that has support from leaders of both parties in the Senate. The Senate will need to pass the measure in order for it to be signed by President Obama. Congress has until March 4 to approve more government funding, or some parts of the federal government will be shuttered.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that the Senate will take up the measure in the next 48 hours, where he expects it to pass. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., backed his assessment.

If the spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, is signed before funding runs out, the clock will reset and Congress will have two weeks to figure out a new compromise.

“The American people want us to get our fiscal house in order, and this is a step in the right direction,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said before the vote Tuesday. “I’m hopeful the Senate will get serious about dealing with the long-term CR that funds our government through September 30.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the administration’s focus is on moving beyond the temporary measure in order to start negotiations on funding the government until the end of the fiscal year in September.

Democrats criticized the short-term proposal as a poor way to fund the government. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Republicans were playing Russian roulette with the economic recovery — risking damage to the fragile economy by only funding the government for two weeks at a time. Sen. Reid said it was a “terrible way to govern.”

Two weeks ago, the House passed a spending measure that would cut $61 billion from current domestic discretionary spending levels while funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, a measure both Senate Democrats and President Obama made clear they would not support.