Shutdown Averted, Senate Approves Bipartisan Spending Deal

The U.S. Senate has reached a bipartisan deal on stopgap spending that will finance the government through November 18, thus avoiding a government shutdown and defusing debate between Republicans and Democrats over disaster relief funding. The measure was approved late yesterday, 79-12, and includes $2.65 billion for federal disaster assistance. The 2011 fiscal year ends on September 30, and were a budget not in place by then, the government would have partially shut down.

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Though the House has yet to vote on the measure, New York Senator Charles Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, says they “expect speedy passage of this agreement” so that the “flow of disaster aid is not interrupted.” Speaking with reporters after the Senate vote, Schumer said, “It is hard to see how the House Republicans could reject this proposal given the overwhelming” support it got in the Senate.

The Senate deal breaks a partisan impasse in which House Republicans were asking that new rescue funds be offset by cuts to other programs, particularly loan programs designed to fund research and innovation in alternative energy technologies. Democrats refused to cut spending to the programs, saying they were responsible for creating many jobs, and that to require offsetting cuts for any new spending would create a dangerous precedent.

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“We’ve basically resolved this issue,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Senate floor last night. “It means we no longer have to fight over 2011 funding.” Democrats will not have to cut spending on alternative energy loan programs, but in turn, the amount of new relief spending will be roughly $1 billion less than originally proposed.