WASHINGTON — House and Senate leaders on Tuesday bought themselves a little more time in their efforts to avoid a government shutdown, agreeing to a two-week funding extension that also includes $4 billion in spending cuts.
The deal, which eliminates dozens of earmarks and a handful of little-known programs that President Barack Obama has identified as unnecessary, sailed through the House on a 335-91 vote. Voting yes were 231 Republicans and 104 Democrats; six Republicans and 85 Democrats voted no.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who initially resisted including any cuts in a short-term funding extension, predicted that it will pass that chamber as early as today.
Obama also got involved, after largely staying on the sidelines. He placed a 10-minute call to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to discuss the temporary spending bill.
If the Senate approves the measure, the two parties will have until March 18 before the government runs out of money, instead of Friday. Both parties know there is a limit to the short-term reprieves they can come up with, however. Ultimately, they must find common ground on a longer-term spending plan that will keep the government in business through the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30.
The House passed a measure last month that would reduce spending by $61 billion over the seven months left in this fiscal year. The Democrats who control the Senate say those cuts are far too steep and would endanger both the economic recovery and a host of vital programs. Obama has said he would veto the bill.
The scramble to pass the two-week extension underlined efforts of both parties to avoid a shutdown of the government.
This would not be an exact reprise of the back-to-back shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, which saw parks and monuments closed, veterans benefits stopped, passport offices shuttered and hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed for a total of 26 days.
Republicans bore the brunt of the blame that time. A Washington Post poll released this week suggested that this time, voters would apportion fault about equally to both parties.
"The American people's priorities are clear," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "They want to keep the government open, and they want to cut spending."