The Senate will attempt this coming week to stave off a government shutdown by working to pass a continuing resolution in order to keep the government funded.
The continuing resolution, known in Washington shorthand as the CR, is a stopgap appropriations measure. Congress is up against a March 27 deadline this time around to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year through September.
The CR passed in the House of Representatives last week but hit roadblocks this week in the Senate, stalled by amendments, battles over amendments and some senators objecting to not even having time to read the actual text.
"To not allow us the time to assess what you have produced by being able to read and study the bill goes against the best traditions of the Senate," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said on the floor of the Senate this week. "Are we just to blindly say that we approve this bill because we have a deadline at the end of the month?"
The Senate bill keeps the same spending levels as the House bill, setting the top-line overall rate of spending at $982 billion, down from $1.043 trillion the previous fiscal year, but adds three appropriations measures - for homeland security and the commerce; agriculture; and justice and science funds.
Over the weekend, key senators will work to come up with amendments to the bill and the Senate is expected to vote next week towards passage, a message communicated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to senators on Thursday evening as senators fled Washington for their home states.
"We need to move forward cautiously but quickly. We have next week," Reid said on the Senate floor late Thursday night, asking for a small list of amendments "that we think would improve this bill and not further develop the ire of the speaker [House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio], who's kind of in charge of a lot of what we do around here."
The bill, when tweaked by the Senate, must be passed again by the House of Representatives.
Boehner has said that so far it does not look like the Senate's changes to the CR will cause much of an uproar in the House of Representatives, meaning the bill as produced by the Senate could be easily and swiftly passed to President Obama for his final signature.
"I'll wait and see what the Senate produces once it comes off the floor," Boehner said this week of the Senate's bill. "So far, so good."