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Leaders of Congress reach deal to fund government, avoid shutdown showdown

From Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett, CNN
updated 7:11 PM EDT, Tue July 31, 2012
The deal would continue funding the federal government through March 2013, two months after the presidential inauguration.
The deal would continue funding the federal government through March 2013, two months after the presidential inauguration.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: White House press secretary calls the agreement "a welcome development"
  • The deal will continue funding through March 2013
  • Some GOP aides wanted to keep pressure to reach a deal and keep a key bargaining chip
  • Current funding is due to expire at the end of September

Washington (CNN) -- Congressional leaders announced a deal Tuesday on a six-month bill to fund the federal government, thereby removing the possibility of a government shutdown -- and the political spectacle that would go with it -- before the election.

"It will provide stability for the coming months," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters. "It will be free of riders. This is very good because we can resolve these critical issues that directly affect the country as soon as the election is over and move on to do good things."

"Leader Reid and I have reached an agreement by which the House and Senate will approve a six-month continuing resolution in September to keep the government operating into next year," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "During the August district work period, committee members and their staff will write legislation that can be passed by the House and Senate in September and sent to President Obama to be signed into law."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the agreement "a welcome development." In a statement, he said, "The president has made clear that it is essential that the legislation to fund the government adheres to the funding levels agreed to by both parties last year, and not include ideological or extraneous policy riders. The president will work with leaders in both parties to sign a bill that accomplishes these goals."

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Current funding for federal agencies is due to expire at the end of September.

Tuesday's announced deal, on what is known as a continuing resolution, would continue funding through March 2013, two months after the presidential inauguration, giving both parties time to avoid another messy spending fight.

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"I think it's the right thing to do," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told CNN before the announcement. "Thank God we're not going through another threatened government shutdown from the Republicans."

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Several members of the conservative Republican Study Committee, who had previously pushed for a lower spending level in spending bills, reversed course in the last couple of weeks and told House GOP leaders they could support a six-month measure at the spending level agreed to in last summer's debt deal.

That level -- $1.047 trillion -- had been a key point for Senate Democrats who insisted that it not drop below that level.

Some conservatives believe that if Republicans win the White House and take control of the Senate in November, they can get bigger spending cuts and policy changes in next year's government funding bills.

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Not all House Republicans support the move. Some GOP aides believe that removing the pressure to reach an agreement on spending at the end of the year -- the same time Congress needs to deal with the expiration of tax cuts and automatic spending cuts -- could mean giving up a key bargaining chip in negotiations with the Democratic-led Senate.

Lawmakers from both parties complain when Congress drops the regular appropriations process, which adds scrutiny to the spending of tax dollars. But continuing resolutions have become a reality in recent years as partisanship has prevented the type of compromise needed to pass appropriations bills.

"This is not our preference," Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, told CNN. "The chairman believes we should do our work in regular order. It's the responsibility to do the fiscal and budget work of the Congress every year."

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