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Lawmakers announce deal to fund government through early 2013

 

The Senate's top Democrat announced Tuesday that he and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had reached an agreement to keep the government open and funded through early next year.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that he and Boehner had agreed on a temporary, six-month extension of government funding in order to avert a Sept. 30 government shutdown unless Congress had acted.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announces to reporters on Capitol Hill July 31 that lawmakers have reached an agreement to keep the government running on autopilot for six months when the current budget year ends on Sept. 30.

"This agreement reached between the Senate, the House and the White House provides stability for the coming months, when we will have to resolve critical issues that directly affect middle class families," Reid said on Capitol Hill.

The six-month bill will maintain the topline funding level of $1.047 trillion, Reid said, announcing as well that a vote on the extension is likely for early September.

The agreement allows lawmakers to avoid the specter of a shutdown with just weeks to go until Election Day, a motivating factor that prodded negotiators to reach a deal. A Republican leadership aide told NBC News that the GOP did not want to risk a distraction from its central messaging on President Obama's economic record.

"Taking this issue off the table will keep the larger focus on jobs, the economy, and President Obama's failed economic policies," the aide said. "That's where Republicans win and Democrats lose."

The topline number was taken from the "Budget Control Act" passed last year by Congress to prevent a default on the nation's debt. Both Democrats and Republicans each achieved some of their goals in this deal, too. Conservative Republicans had wanted to cut the toplinenumber -- over the objections of Democrats -- but had agreed to maintain current spending levels in exchange for a six-month extension instead of the yearlong deal Democrats had preferred.

Appropriators will work up the legislation's formal language over the August recess, and its formal passage seems to be more of a formality considering the joint agreement between Reid, Boehner and President Obama. While a GOP operative told NBC News that some “discontent amongst the real conservative rank and file is possible” because the bill won’t cut current spending, it probably would not be enough to jeopardize the bill’s passage in the House.

Not to be lost, because the agreement only lasts six months, the expiration of this deal in early 2013 will add to a large, looming and contentious budget fight set for the beginning of the 113th Congress.