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Deal to Avert Government Shutdown Appears Imminent

The announcement of a House-Senate deal to fund the government for the six months after Sept. 30 appeared imminent this afternoon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that any spending agreement would have to be at the $1.047 trillion level established by last year’s debt limit law. Current funding runs out at the end of the government’s fiscal year Sept. 30, and without new appropriations or a stopgap continuing resolution, the government would shut down.

A senior Democratic aide signaled that Reid would comment on the matter following the Democratic Conference’s weekly lunch meeting.

The continuing resolution could not be considered by either chamber until after the August recess, sources said, because the Congressional Budget Office would need time to score the proposal. In addition, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will need to provide appropriations committee staffers with lists of changes from the current spending levels called “anomalies” for inclusion in the measure.

Sen. Thad Cochran, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations panel, expressed hope that a deal would be reached as soon as possible.

“I think it’s a good idea to pass an appropriations bill as soon as we can. The agencies and departments need to have something they can count on in term of budget numbers for the next fiscal year,” the Mississippi Republican said. “So the sooner we do this, the better off we are going to be.”

Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said Monday night that party leaders were continuing to discuss the structure of the continuing resolution, with six months likely to be its duration. “That’s the range they are talking about,” she said.

Stabenow said other measures might be attached to the continuing resolution. One possibility, she said, was to add disaster assistance for farmers to deal with the drought in the Midwest. “It could be, if people agreed to it. A lot of things are expiring Sept. 30,” Stabenow said. She said the CR was unlikely to be completed until September.

There’s been a growing consensus among lawmakers across the political spectrum that it would be best to delay the wrap-up of fiscal 2013 appropriations into the next session of Congress. Fiscal 2013 begins Oct. 1, making it critical that Congress clear a continuing resolution before Members of the House and about a third of the Senate head home to campaign in October.

Appropriators, who had long hoped to finish their spending bills in the lame-duck session, appear not be fighting a plan first advanced publicly by House GOP conservatives.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said many Democratic Senators are now expecting a six-month CR to clear the way for focusing on expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts in the post-election session.

Many members of the conservative House Republican Study Committee have said they would grudgingly support a CR set at the fiscal 2013 level agreed to in last year’s debt limit deal and also accept interim funding for implementing the 2010 health overhaul in exchange for delaying fiscal 2013 appropriations. Republicans are betting on gains in November that could enable them to push for deep spending cuts next year.

Meredith Shiner contributed to this report.