WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is moving to quash the threat of a government shutdown, but the prospect of a one-two punch of tax increases and slashing, automatic spending cuts will still confront lawmakers when they return to Washington after Election Day.
The House on Thursday passed a six-month stopgap spending bill to keep federal agencies running past the end of the budget year, the elections and into the spring. It effectively scratched a major item off of Congress' to-do list heading into a potentially brutal postelection, lame duck session.
The bipartisan 329-91 House vote for the measure sent it to the Senate, which is expected to clear it next week for President Barack Obama's signature, capping a year of futility and gridlock on the budget despite a hard-fought spending and deficit-reduction deal last summer.
The short-term spending measure funds the day-to-day operating budgets of Cabinet agencies that are financed annually by Congress through 12 appropriations bills. It would fund the government through March 27 and relieve lawmakers of the burden of trying to pass a catchall omnibus spending measure in November after the election.
While taking the possibility of a government shutdown out of the equation, the so-called fiscal cliff — a combination of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes set to slam the economy in January — still hangs over Congress and President Barack Obama.
More than $100 billion in cuts to defense and domestic programs alike loom as punishment for the failure of last year's deficit-reduction supercommittee to strike a follow-up bargain to last summer's debt and budget pact between the lawmakers and the president. The automatic cuts are set to hit at the same time that the Bush-era tax cuts, which were extended two years ago, are set to expire again.
Passage of the stopgap spending measure is likely to be Congress' last major act before lawmakers go home to campaign for re-election. Wrestling with how to avert the fiscal cliff is sure to dominate the lame duck session in November.
The temporary spending bill is needed to avert a government shutdown when the current budget year expires Sept. 30.
Thursday's vote represented a retreat by tea party Republicans since the stopgap measure permits spending at a pace that's $19 billion above the stringent budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., his party's vice presidential nominee.
Instead, the measure permits spending at the higher budget "caps" permitted under last summer's deal. Typically, short-term spending bills freeze agency budgets at existing levels, but Thursday's measure actually would permit an across-the-board 0.6 percent increase, in keeping with the budget accord. It also maintains spending on domestic programs rather than shifting $8 billion from domestic programs to the Pentagon.
Ryan, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, returned to the Capitol from the campaign trail to vote for the half-year measure, even though it spends billions of dollars more than his budget plan, which has helped define the tight race for the White House.
It is routine for Congress to require one or more temporary spending measures, known as continuing resolutions, because Congress invariably misses the deadline for completing the annual appropriations bills.
But this year the appropriations process has collapsed completely. While the House has managed to pass seven of the 12 spending bills, the Democratic-controlled Senate hasn't passed a single one, despite optimism earlier this year that last year's budget deal could help get the appropriations process back on track.
Democrats say the decision by House GOP leaders to abandon the budget agreement is to blame because it set up a fundamental mismatch between the spending bills produced by the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
"This appropriations process was destined to fail from the start as Republicans chose to ignore the budget (deal's) statutory spending caps in favor of the unworkable caps in the Ryan budget," Rep. David Price, D-N.C., said.
Still, it was remarkable that the Senate didn't take up any appropriations bill. Republicans said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was too busy teeing up votes to send political messages — while protecting vulnerable Democrats from difficult votes in relation to spending bills.
The House-passed measure would replenish disaster aid coffers, finance the food stamp program after it lapses on Sept. 30 and reauthorize for six months federal grants to states to run their welfare programs.
Just a handful of high-priority programs would be awarded larger increases, including an initiative to protect government computers from cyberattacks, wildfire suppression efforts, a drive to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and processing of veteran disability claims. A popular initiative to repair the dome of the Capitol was left unfunded, despite a high-profile push by Senate Democrats.
Copyright 2013 The Associated
U.S. Census data shows that one Fort Wayne neighborhood is among the poorest in the state, and it the poverty rate has a direct correlation the rising crime statistics.
It was something that was never supposed to happen. A veteran who killed a woman in Indianapolis then took his own life was buried with full military honors. Since that day, the victim's family has been advocating against it.
The house fire affected traffic on U.S. 33 just north of Churubusco for over an hour. All lanes were back open less than two hours after the fire was called in.
Police said speed appeared to be a factor in a crash that all the occupants of the car seriously injured.
Three intersections on the north side of the city will have new left-turn signals that with a flashing yellow arrow. The new signals will be activated in January.
A plan is in the works to move Cindy's Diner from its current location in downtown Fort Wayne to another location one block northwest from its current location. The iconic restaurant has been a fixture downtown since 1990.
Former Komets executive, owner, general manager and coach Ken Ullyot passed away Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the age of 92.
The organization claims such legislation would hamper the city's ability to grow economically and that Fort Wayne should be "competitive on a national level and be recognized as a community that thrives on diversity, innovation, and inclusion,”
A state commission seeking ways to improve the lives of Indiana's most vulnerable children is forming a task force to investigate whether there's a link between methamphetamine arrests and child welfare cases.
Scammers are claiming to be from a law enforcement agency and are threatening to arrest victims if they don't pay the fine for an alleged crime or debt.
The free course will go over the laws and regulations about squirrel hunting and will teach attendees how to field dress and prepare squirrels for the table.
The Allen County Sheriff's Department arrested two people for having and making meth on Monday and Wednesday.
People across Indiana are bundling up against colder temperatures than parts of the state saw in either of the past two winters.
Tesla has opened two charging stations in northern Indiana, one of them at a hotel in Angola, as it works to establish a network of such stops across the country for its electric cars.
Fort Wayne police are looking for a man who is suspected of robbing a local bar early Thursday morning.