Senate passes pork laden continuing resolution to keep government funded and avoid shutdown

Posted on 3/20/2013 6:38 PM in Politics

The Senate passed 73-26 a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through the end of September and avoid a partial federal shutdown. The bill goes to the House next.

From CNN:

Leaders of the Senate, run by Democrats, and the Republican-controlled House hope to avoid another saga like the fiscal showdowns that have come to define dysfunction in Congress.

"I hope that this practical, commonsense leadership will be a good sign for ... other things in the future," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "The work done by (the managers of the bill) should be and it is exemplary for what needs to follow."

Lawmakers want to get the bill, known as a continuing resolution, to President Barack Obama's desk before leaving Washington for a two-week holiday break starting on Friday.

Failure to enact the measure before March 27 would result in a partial shutdown of federal agencies and other programs.

Earlier this month, the House passed its own spending plan that incorporated the cuts -- known as sequestration -- but provided some leeway for the military and the Veterans administration.

The compromise Senate version, crafted primarily by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski and Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, further reduces the impact of forced austerity by establishing stop-gap budgets for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as NASA.

In its current form, the compromise bill would lock in $984 billion in spending -- a notable drop from the $1.043 trillion initially approved before the forced sequestration cuts took effect.

A senior congressional GOP aide told CNN last week the House will probably approve the plan absent significant changes.

The head of the House Appropriations Committee -- Kentucky GOP Rep. Harold Rogers -- agreed, telling CNN Wednesday that the bill's "in good shape" and the threat of a government shutdown is "off the table."

Despite the bill's bipartisan nature, several senators were unhappy with their inability to offer amendments.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, forced an extension of debate after being denied a vote on an amendment to protect rural airport control towers from closure due to the cuts.

"It's always difficult to attribute motives but as I talk to my colleagues, the only explanation I ever get that has any semblance of truth is there is a point to be made here," Moran said. "By denying the amendment's passage, we prove that sequestration can't work, that we can't cut money from budgets."

Some conservative Republicans argue that, despite the cuts, the legislation is still loaded with wasteful spending.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, for example, questioned the inclusion of $154 million in Pentagon alternative energy research funding, $120 million for infrastructure improvements in Guam, and $65 million for Pacific coast salmon restoration.

"The bill contains numerous examples of egregious pork barrel projects," McCain said last week.

McCain told CNN on Tuesday, however, that he would not stand in the way of final passage of the measure.

"I'm ready to vote right away," he said. "I've made my point. I've made my speech. I've done what I can and I'm ready to move forward."

The media has completely ignored the pork in this bill unlike the the pork barrel projects in the Sandy reliefe bill.

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