It Looks Like the Government Will Keep On Running

Not food inspectors nor air traffic controllers stopped a stopgap funding bill.

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Senators hoping to get a vote on amendments that would soften the blow of sequester back home, including Jerry Moran of Kansas, were responsible for the continuing resolution delay.

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After a tumultuous multi-day floor fight over eggs, bacon and air traffic control towers, the Senate passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year 73 to 26 Wednesday afternoon.

The legislation keeps the $85 billion in sequestration cuts in place, but would give multiple departments—including agriculture, commerce, homeland security, justice, defense and veterans affairs--the ability to shuffle money around to preserve critical functions of each agency.

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The stopgap bill will now go to the House, which is expected to pass the measure without any amendments in order to meet the March 27 deadline.

"This is an enormous victory," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said following the vote. "At the end of the day, we all agree on our goals. We want to keep America moving."

The Senate now can refocus its attention on its budget proposal, which will get a vote this week before lawmakers go home for the Easter break.

A handful of senators hoping to get a vote on amendments that would soften the blow of sequester back home were responsible for the continuing resolution delay.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., fought relentlessly to get a vote on his amendment, which would reallocate planned cuts to 179 FAA air traffic control towers across the country.

"Once there is an accident, and somebody dies and a plane crashes, the question will always be 'what if there had been an air traffic control tower there? What if we had left the program in place.' " Moran said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

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Moran accused Democrats of intentionally cutting visible programs and refusing to move some money around in the cash-strapped agency to "prove a point."

"The real issue here ... is about the safety of Americans," Moran said. "If it's true that the reason this amendment is not being considered is because we want to prove a point that there is no money to be cut--that sequestration is a bad idea--then it's a very dangerous way to try to prove a point."

Moran's display, however, did not get him a vote.

Others like Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who introduced an amendment to keep food inspectors on the job, won concessions to keep meat inspectors on the job back home.

Because of sequestration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to furlough more than 500,000 employees, which could shut to doors on more than 6,000 food inspection facilities, experts say.

"Without this funding, every meat, poultry, and egg processing facility nationwide would be forced to shut down for up to two weeks—impacting each and every American family with higher food prices," Blunt said.

But Pryor admitted the money was about more than safety.

"By solving this funding gap, we've been able to protect private sector jobs, keep food prices affordable, and help nearly 40,000 employees in my state alone," he said.

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