Kickin’ the Can: Senate Passes Stop-Gap Spending Plan, Buys Lawmakers Three More Weeks To Solve Funding Mess

By Kristina

Mar 17, 2011 5:35pm

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: 

The Senate today passed a bill to extend government funding for three more weeks, preventing a federal shutdown at the end of this week and buying lawmakers additional time to try to reach a long-term funding deal. 

The Senate passed the three-week funding bill by a vote of 87-13 this afternoon. The 13 senators voting against the bill were Republicans Mike Crapo, Jim DeMint, John Ensign, Orrin Hatch, Jim Inhofe, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, James Risch, and Marco Rubio; Democrats Carl Levin, Patty Murray, and Jay Rockefeller; and Independent Bernie Sanders.

Since the measure has already passed the House, it now moves on to President Obama’s desk. But even though the Senate has just passed the new three-week bill to cut $6 billion in funding – the sixth temporary spending bill during the current fiscal year – the fight over the next spending measure has already begun. 

Any additional funding bills must include the Pentagon budget money through the end of the year, the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell warned this week. Meanwhile, 23 GOP senators have vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling later this year unless the White House agrees to tackle entitlement programs in the budget talks.

Across the aisle, the Senate’s number-three Democrat Chuck Schumer has called on House Speaker John Boehner to “abandon” the Tea Party in the talks, warning that “it’s the only way out of this bind.”

For now, with lawmakers set to spend next week on recess, at least government funding has been extended through April 8. How to extend funding through the end of the current fiscal year remains an unanswered question.

After the vote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "Today’s vote starts the clock. This is the second time we have extended the deadline for passing a long-term plan that cuts spending and keeps our government running."

But to date the Democratic-controlled Senate has yet to pass any funding bills for the rest of the fiscal year. The GOP-controlled House passed a measure that would cut around $61 billion, but the Senate shot it down. The Senate also shot down the Democrats' proposal – to cut around $50 billion less – a measure that garnered even less support than the Republicans' plan.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor today said Senate Democrats and President Obama need to put forward an offer that can pass the Senate.

"Now that we've put more time on the clock, I again implore the President and Senate Democrats to give us an offer that can get majority support in the Senate to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year that includes serious spending cuts," Cantor said. "We cannot continue to fund the government with a series of bandaids."

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