WASHINGTON – The House passed emergency short-term legislation Tuesday to cut federal spending by $4 billion and avert a government shutdown. Senate Democrats agreed to follow suit, handing Republicans an early victory in their drive to rein in government.
The bill that cleared the House on a bipartisan vote of 335-91 eliminates the threat of a shutdown on March 4, when existing funding authority expires. At the same time, it creates a compressed two-week timeframe for the White House and lawmakers to engage in what looms as a highly contentious negotiation on a follow-up bill to set spending levels through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said the short-term bill would win approval and be ready for President Barack Obama’s signature within 48 hours. “We’ll pass this and then look at funding the government on a long-term basis,” said the Nevada Democrat.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House, which earlier in the day called publicly for an interim measure of up to five weeks.
House Republicans were more eager to draw attention to the bill that was passing with the acquiescence of the White House and Democrats than to the challenge yet ahead.