WASHINGTON -- A stopgap measure to keep the government funded at a new, lower level cleared a final hurdle in Congress on Thursday and is headed for President Obama’s signature, ending the threat of a government shutdown.
The House quickly approved the measure, 318-109, following passage in the Senate on Wednesday, as both parties -- and the administration -- sought to avoid a disruptive closing of federal offices. Legislation is needed by March 27 when a temporary measure expires, and Obama is expected to swiftly sign it.
The bill locks in the amount of the so-called sequester cuts on federal agencies, the across-the-board reductions that have begun crimping lawmakers’ priority projects and home-state industries. Those cuts began March 1 after Republicans and Democrats could not agree on an alternative way to chip away at spending.
However, the House and Senate rearranged the cuts somewhat to spare lawmakers’ most prized programs from the deepest reductions -- changes that at one point threatened to derail the bill.
Republicans in the House were able to beef up defense accounts, as well as shift money to embassy security and immigration enforcement. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, funneled money toward child care, Head Start preschoolers and other domestic programs.
Overall, though, the reduced spending is expected to be as much as 9% on domestic accounts and 13% on defense, a contraction economists have warned could shave economic growth and lead to fewer jobs.