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House passes GOP measure on government funding

House Vote

By Tom Cohen, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A Republican measure to keep the government funded through September while softening the impact of forced spending cuts on the military and veterans affairs programs won approval from the GOP-led House on Wednesday.

The proposal, known as a continuing resolution, passed by a 267-151 vote, with more than 50 Democrats joining most Republicans in supporting it.

It now goes to the Democratic-led Senate, which is expected to make changes to further soften the impact of the forced spending cuts on non-military programs.

The continuing resolution is needed to extend authorization for government spending beyond the current March 27 deadline.

A partial government shutdown would occur if Congress fails to extend funding authorization by the deadline in three weeks’ time, but leaders of both parties say they don’t want another political showdown over the legislation.

Under the proposal sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, total government spending for the fiscal year that ends September 30 would adhere to the figure negotiated by President Barack Obama and Congress in 2011.

The measure also includes the forced spending cuts — known in Washington jargon as sequestration — that took effect last Friday when Obama and congressional Republicans were unable to reach a compromise to replace or avert them.

However, it would allow Pentagon and Veterans Affairs officials to shift funding to protect top priority programs, and also include provisions to maintain FBI and border security spending.

“This is a bill to keep the government operating while we debate then how we deal with sequestration,” Rogers argued on the House floor before Wednesday’s vote.

Democrats responded that the continuing resolution and the forced spending cuts it incorporates would leave vital domestic programs such as Head Start underfunded for the rest of the fiscal year.

They call for Republicans to negotiate an alternative to the forced spending cuts to prevent the harshest effects from occurring.

“This is a bill that reinforces the sequester,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.