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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parties Agree on Stop-Gap Budget Bill

WASHINGTON -- Congress and the White House have set aside their differences and agreed on a stopgap spending bill that will avert a third partial shutdown of the government in three months.


The measure provides money through March 15 for nine Cabinet agencies and an assortment of programs that would have lost their funding Saturday. It won approval Thursday night in the House of Representatives on a 371-42 vote and is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton on Friday.


Members of both parties conceded Thursday that the bill, known as a continuing resolution, contained provisions they found distasteful. But lawmakers suggested they have lost enthusiasm for the chaotic budgetary clashes that paralyzed parts of the government and alienated many Americans.


"Frankly, from where we started, I'm somewhat amazed" that a deal was possible, said Republican Representative Robert Livingston, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The mid-March deadline, however, means that major elements of the government are still not assured of money through the 1996 fiscal year, ending Sept. 30.


The bill came together during hours of behind-the-scenes wrangling over education, abortion and other issues.


Democrats accepted curbs that they generally oppose in funding for education and other programs. Republicans watered down an abortion restriction sought by conservatives and returned money to Clinton's pet projects of national service and additional police officers.


"This is a terrible bill, but it's the only one we've got, and that's the only reason I'm going to vote for it," said Representative Harold Volkmer, a Democrat.


Administration officials were pleased by the effort to stave off a shutdown, which contrasted with more vindictive tone of recent budget confrontations. Partial shutdowns that started in mid-November and mid-December closed many federal operations for 27 days and cost taxpayers $1.4 billion, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.


"We think overall it was fair to all sides," said Lawrence Haas, OMB spokesman, of Thursday's deal.


The agreements came just a day after House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared that Republicans would work with the administration to identify mutually acceptable savings in the budget, while putting off the sensitive issues that have created the impasse, such as health care spending.


But administration officials expressed wariness toward Republican plans of attaching tax cuts and spending plans to an increase in the debt limit that is required by March 1 to prevent the nation from defaulting on its financial obligations.


The president "would take a dim view of that," said White House spokesman Mike McCurry, when asked about Republican recommendations to add a cut in the capital gains tax to a debt-limit bill.