Congress Acting Ahead of Schedule to Stop Government Shutdown

Senate now will scramble to give domestic departments flexibility to handle sequester in CR bill.

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The House of Representatives took the first step Wednesday to avoid a government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution that funds the government through September and gives the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs more flexibility to soften the blow of sequester cuts.

The CR will fund the government for six more months at $982 billion. The bill passed the House 267 to 151.

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Republicans applauded the measure as a step in the right direction to both keep the amount of cuts from the sequester and allow select agencies to reallocate them more strategically.

"This legislation is straightforward and reasonable, protecting national defense and helping our veterans while maintaining the president's sequester," House Speaker John Boehner said.

Democratic leaders in the House, however, attacked the bill as insufficient because it did nothing to replace the sequester or halt it.

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"This CR does nothing to address the irrational cuts to defense and non-defense that the sequester will require. It could be very harmful to our economy and to our national security and place the most vulnerable in America at great risk," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a statement. "We should not allow, my colleagues, our government to shut down. But we cannot do business this way, lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next."

The White House signaled Wednesday it was pleased with the forward motion, but expressed hesitancy in how the House bill carved out special support for the Pentagon while ignoring other agencies.

The Senate will now consider the CR and is expected to fashion a new version of the bill that would give other domestic agencies flexibility to allocate the $85 billion in cuts this year.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski will lead that charge.

Republicans in the Senate said that while they expect Mikulski to revise the House legislation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was still hopeful that both sides would come to an agreement.

"Senate Democrats are going to want to have some imprint of the version of the continuing resolution that comes over from the House. We anticipate that," McConnell said Tuesday during a briefing with reporters. "I don't think the House expects the bill to be exactly the way it looks when it comes over here after the Senate passes it. ...There seems not to be any interest on either side of having a government shutdown."

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