House, Senate may not agree on government funding bill before money runs out

Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 18, 2011

As the House continued its marathon debate Thursday over a bill to fund the federal government, House Speaker John A. Boehner acknowledged that the House and Senate may not reach agreement on spending cuts before the government runs out of money next month.

But Boehner (R-Ohio) ruled out passing a temporary funding resolution to keep the government operating unless it contained at least some spending cuts, possibly setting up a showdown with Democratic leaders in the Senate, who said Boehner had increased the risk of a government shutdown.

The government is operating under a temporary funding measure that is set to expire March 4. Senate Democrats want to approve another extension, perhaps lasting a few weeks, to keep it operating at last year's levels while the two chambers work out their differences. They said they are prepared to meet Republicans partway on overall reductions for the year.

"There will be some additional cuts, we know that," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the leadership, adding that those cuts would result only from "fair negotiations."

The House, which was expected to debate past midnight Thursday for a third consecutive night, plans a final vote Friday on a spending package that would trim $61 billion in agency budgets for the final seven months of 2011.

The Senate is unlikely to approve its version of the legislation until next month.

Boehner said Thursday that he would not allow the House to consider a temporary-funding measure that would not reduce spending. "I am not going to move any kind of short-term [resolution] at current levels," he said.

It is not clear how much Republicans will demand be cut to keep the government open, but both sides consider this debate a preview to more intense spending negotiations. Many House Republicans - including the 87 GOP freshmen who campaigned on reducing spending to 2008 levels - have made the issue a priority and are pressing their leaders not to compromise.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company