WASHINGTON — The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to lock in $85 billion in widely decried spending cuts aimed at restraining soaring federal deficits and to avoid a government shutdown next week.
Federal meat inspectors were spared furloughs, but more than 100 small and medium air-traffic facilities were left exposed to possible closure as the two parties alternately clashed and cooperated over proposals to take the edge off across-the-board spending cuts that took effect March 1.
Final House approval of the measure is likely as early as today. Obama's signature is a certainty, meaning the cuts will remain in place at least through the end of the budget year Sept. 30.
Without changes, the $85 billion in cuts for the current year will swell to nearly $1 trillion over a decade, enough to make at least a small dent in economy-threatening federal deficits but requiring program cuts that lawmakers in both parties say are unsustainable politically. As a result, negotiations are possible later in the year to replace the reductions with different savings.
The final vote was 73-26, with 51 Democrats, 20 Republicans and two independents in favor and 25 Republicans and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana opposed.
The overall legislation provides several departments and agencies with flexibility in coping with the cuts, including the Pentagon, the departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Justice, State and Commerce, and the Food and Drug Administration.