Spending Bill Sails Through Chambers After Months of Standoffs

Posted April 14, 2011 at 5:27pm

Updated: 6:36 p.m.

Formally ending months of bipartisan squabbling, eleventh-hour negotiations and a series of short-term continuing resolutions, the Senate easily cleared on Thursday a spending bill with $38 billion in cuts that will keep the government open through September.

Strong majorities in both parties backed the compromise, which was ironed out last week by President Barack Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a race against the clock to avoid a government shutdown.

The 81-19 vote came after the Senate rejected, as expected, a resolution that would have defunded Planned Parenthood on a 42-58 vote and a resolution that would have defunded the health care overhaul law on a party-line 47-53 vote. Four Democrats and 15 Republicans voted against the bill’s passage.

The bill now heads to the president, who is expected to sign it. “We are pleased that Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, were able to reach an agreement to avert a government shutdown by making significant spending cuts while still investing in our future,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

The House passed the measure earlier Thursday afternoon on a 260-167 vote. Boehner and his House Republican leadership team had wanted enough GOP votes to pass the bill without Democrats’ help but fell far short of their goal: 59 Republicans defected. The votes of 81 Democrats helped bring the bill to passage.

The Senate and House will be in recess Monday to April 29, with a showdown over the fiscal 2012 budget and a debt limit increase awaiting them when they return.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hailed the agreement and the shift in focus from stimulus packages to fiscal responsibility.

“We’ve had a sea change here in Washington,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Now, everyone claims to see the crises we face, even those who’ve done so much to create them and who’ve tried for too long to ignore them.

“That’s why this debate will soon move from a debate about billions in savings to a discussion about how we save trillions, because the ground has shifted in the direction Americans want.”