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House votes to avert shutdown, fund U.S. through Sept.

 

The House passed legislation on Wednesday amid a wintry storm in Washington to avert a government shutdown, and keep the government running through the summer. 

The Republican-held chamber voted 267 to 151 to approve a continuing resolution and pull the United States back from the brink of a government shutdown on March 27, when current day-to-day funding is set to expire. Fifty-three Democrats joined with the bulk of Republicans to approve the legislation.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addresses her concerns over a Republican-backed bill that would fund the federal government through September.

The maneuver by the House could be a crucial first step toward avoiding a government shutdown this month, though it was not clear whether the GOP proposal would sail through the Senate.

"Today the House has taken the first step towards assuring the American people that the federal government will stay open, which President Obama agrees should be our shared goal," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "The Senate should pass the House measure without delay so we can continue focusing on helping Americans get back to work and putting the country on a path to a balanced budget.”

Consideration of the "CR" was sped up to Wednesday afternoon to accommodate a winter storm that had affected Washington, D.C. and its surrounding areas. The vote capped an abbreviated work week for lawmakers in the House.

President Barack Obama said last Friday that the continuing resolution was "the right thing to do to make sure that we don't have a government shutdown." His administration formally released a statement on Tuesday expressing its concerns with the Republican bill, though it stopped short of threatening a veto.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that Democrats would produce their own bill to fund the government, with a goal of reaching a final resolution before Congress's Easter recess beginning March 22.

The legislation would extend funding for the government, at existing levels, through the end of the U.S. government's fiscal year — that is, through the end of September. The funding level, though, is subject to the automatic spending cuts, "sequestration," that sprung into effect last Friday. 

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The continuing resolution also contains language meant to deal with some of the most severe aspects of the sequester, which mandates indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts to different parts of the federal budget. The Republican proposal would give the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs more flexibility to reallocate funds in their budgets to avoid some of the harshest consequences of sequestration.

More significantly, this move on Wednesday by the House would seem to end the series of miniature fiscal crises which took the U.S. to the brink of calamity on numerous occasions over the past few years. The onset of sequestration on March 1 and the last-minute resolution on higher taxes for the wealthy on Jan. 1 of this year are only the most recent examples of high-profile fiscal battles on Capitol Hill.

Several other fiscal battles await Congress later this spring, though. Both the House and Senate have vowed to approve formal budgets for the forthcoming fiscal year, and Obama is due to produce his own budget soon. Those budgets are tied into a needed extension of the nation's debt limit, which has been suspended through mid-May. An agreement to extract Republican votes for an increase in the debt ceiling will likely hinge on what, if any, consensus lawmakers can reach on taxes, spending and entitlements.

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