Share this article

print logo

Temporary government funding puts Congress' earmarks on hold

Congress on Friday patched together a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown after Senate Republicans killed a $1.2 trillion omnibus measure that was loaded with pet projects known as earmarks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., abandoned the omnibus bill Thursday after several Republicans he had been counting on withdrew their support for the plan, which would have funded government programs and agencies through Sept. 30, 2011.

The House on Friday approved legislation that would keep the government running until Tuesday while lawmakers negotiate a longer-term extension. Several hours later, the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to approve the resolution.

The legislation replaces a stopgap measure currently funding the government that expires today.

The moves mean that federal agencies could go roughly halfway through their 2011 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, before updated budgets are approved.

Another stopgap measure also would set the stage for a spending fight early next year between President Obama's administration and Republicans, who will control the House in the new Congress and who have promised to slash spending by $100 billion.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration prefers a continuing resolution that would fund the agencies for the duration of the government's fiscal year. Reid said Thursday he doesn't have the votes for that, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants the funding extended only through Feb. 18.

The decision to pull the omnibus measure was a victory for Republicans, who lined up against the bill even though most had included in it funding for projects in their home states. Republicans complained they were only given days to consider the 1,924-page measure, which was introduced Tuesday.

McConnell said Reid "doesn't have the votes, and the reason he doesn't have the votes is because members on this side of the aisle increasingly felt concerned about the way we do business."

"For many of our members, it was not so much the substance of the bill but the process" that spurred opposition, he added.

All but a handful of lawmakers in both parties had requested about $8 billion in earmarks in the omnibus bill.

In another development, the House overwhelmingly passed a defense bill authorizing the Pentagon to spend nearly $160 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this budget year without major restrictions on the conduct of operations.

The legislation has been held up because of controversy over a provision ending the ban on openly gay people serving in the military, but the House earlier this week removed the "don't ask, don't tell" provision from the bill, assuring the defense bill's easy approval. It also approved a stand-alone resolution repealing the military ban on gays.

The Senate still must act on the defense bill and the repeal for both to go to the president.

There are no comments - be the first to comment