House passes bill to keep government open past March 27


McClatchy Newspapers

The House of Representatives took the first step Wednesday toward keeping the federal government open after March 27, passing a bill to extend spending levels through Sept. 30 and preserving the automatic spending cuts that went into effect Friday.

The House bill would make one change in the recent automatic spending cuts, called a sequester: It would give the military and veterans programs officials more flexibility to shift the cuts around their departments to minimize impacts. The House adopted the plan to extend government financing by a vote of 267-151.

While the Democratic Senate is likely to propose changes, the tone of the debate in the House and support from 53 Democrats for the GOP proposal suggested an eagerness to avoid a partial government shutdown when current funding runs out for a share of the government. At the same time, President Barack Obama planned a dinner Wednesday night with a group of Republican senators at a downtown hotel and visits to the Capitol next week. A meeting with Senate Republicans at the Capitol next week will be his first such outreach in three years.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for an agreement to keep the government open past March 27. The Senate is expected to consider a plan next week.

The measure involves discretionary spending in the $3.55 trillion federal budget, the portion that Congress and Obama can more easily control. Not included are programs subject to automatic increases, such as Social Security and certain health care benefits.

The Democrats’ chief complaint with the House bill was its acceptance of the sequester for domestic programs. But the White House was gentle in its criticism, avoiding a veto threat and saying it was “pleased” that the bill maintained spending levels.

It did say, though, that the bill “raises concerns about the government’s ability to protect consumers, avoid deep cuts in critical services that families depend on, and implement critical domestic priorities such as access to quality and affordable health care.”

The statement reflected the tranquil mood toward the funding measure, a possible sign that Washington is aware the public and the financial markets have had enough bickering.

“We were badly damaged by this fighting,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. “When we go home people are saying, ‘You guys need to sit down and work things out.’ Both sides are hearing that.”

Including Obama. When he meets with Senate Republicans March 14, it will be the first time he’s visited the caucus at the Capitol in nearly three years. He’s already begun calling senators, talking about the budget, immigration and other matters.

In the meantime, the debate Wednesday was a recitation of familiar partisan themes. Both sides railed against sequestration, and how the bill was keeping the automatic cuts alive for six more months.

“This is crazy. I really believe that both sides of this little bubble here in Washington there is a bipartisan consensus that what we’re doing here is crazy . . . mindless, senseless across-the-board cuts and no urgency,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “There’s a little snow on the ground, National Airport is closed, we can’t really go anywhere until it reopens. We ought to stay here and figure out an alternative to sequestration.”

Republicans also were not pleased. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the bill, like sequestration, “is not what any of us like. . . . But as imperfect as this measure is, I believe that it is absolutely essential to pass it today.”

If nothing else, he said, it “makes sense, especially for defense. . . . Defense is the first job of the federal government. We send our soldiers and intelligence community personnel to all parts of the world to defend us. The least we can do is to give them the flexibility and support to do their jobs.”;Twitter:@lightmandavid

Read more Nation stories from the Miami Herald

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, William Lee Jones, left, and Aaron Huntsman kiss during a celebration Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Key West, Fla. Jones and Huntsman and about 100 other people marked a Florida Keys judge's ruling overturning Florida's ban on same-sex marriage on Thursday after the couple's legal challenge. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

    Gay marriage

    Monroe judge denies gay Key West bartenders’ plea to let them marry Tuesday

    Two gay Key West bartenders asked Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia to lift an automatic stay and allow them to marry Tuesday. The judge declined.


    Flight victim was 1990 graduate of Palmer

    Waiting tables, being an administrative assistant and working in customer service paid the bills at various times for 1990 Palmer School graduate Kevin Jesurun, a native of the Netherlands Antilles who died when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 crashed in the Ukraine. Jeserun’s loves, however, clearly were laughter and soccer.

In this Thursday July 17, 2014, photo, Aaron Huntsman, left, and William Jones, right, greet the crowd gathered at Aqua Night Club in Key West, Fla. The couple is challenging the state of Florida's ban on gay marriage. Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia on Thursday overturned Florida's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, a move that was quickly appealed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. (AP Photo/Key West Citizen, Rob O'Neal)

    Gay marriage

    Keys clerk’s office: We’re ready to marry gay couples

    Same-sex couples from around the state made plans to go to the Keys to marry after a Monroe County judge overthrew the state’s gay-marriage ban. But a stay means no same-sex weddings for the moment.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category