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US Senate approves budget bill amid showdown with House

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Following a week of divisive debate, the US Senate passed a temporary budget Friday, sending the legislation to the House amid a congressional showdown just days from a possible government closure.

House Speaker John Boehner has indicated his Republican caucus would likely alter the legislation and send it back to the Senate, a move that could leave insufficient time for an amended bill to pass both chambers of Congress before a fiscal year-end deadline of midnight Monday.

The Senate voted along strict party lines, 54 Democrats to 44 Republicans, to approve the measure, which funds government operations until November 15 at the annual rate of $986 billion, but which also strips out language that would have defunded President Barack Obama's health care law.

That provision on so-called "Obamacare" had been the key sticking point, and the Senate's Democratic leader Harry Reid did away with it after Obama insisted he would not sign a budget bill that defunded his signature domestic legislative achievement.

Several Republicans supported moving forward to debate and vote on the bill given the precarious timing, but they united in opposition to it once Reid removed the provision defunding Obamacare.

The Democratic majority prevailed, with Senator Barbara Mikulski saying the bill "will lay the groundwork for us to get to a solution on the long-term fiscal needs of our country."

But it was the short-term that was to be the all-consuming question Friday and through the weekend, as the House goes into session Saturday and possibly Sunday to debate and vote on a way out of the looming fiscal crisis.

House Speaker John Boehner has indicated his caucus was unlikely to support passage of the Senate's stripped down version, suggesting Thursday that Republicans will seek to insert some conservative sweeteners in the legislation and send it back to the Senate.

Such a move would push the US government perilously close to the end of the current fiscal year, September 30. If no funding bill is in place by Tuesday, October 1, many government agencies are mandated to start shutting their doors.

mlm/jm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130927/us-senate-approves-budget-bill-amid-showdown-house