By a vote of 73 to 26, the U.S. Senate today passed a stopgap Appropriations bill to avoid a government shutdown. U.S. Senator Jack Reed warned that deep federal cuts due to the sequester will hurt the economy if Congress doesn't work together to support job-creating policies.
"The Senate worked hard to produce a balanced bill under a very tight funding cap," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee. "Due to the stiff cuts under the sequester, the investments we make in this bill will be pared back by 5 to 8 percent. These cuts make it impossible to address the most urgent deficit, which is the jobs deficit. Congress should be investing wisely in education, infrastructure, and other proven pro-growth job-creating strategies."
The U.S. Senate's continuing resolution (CR) extension bill limits federal non-discretionary spending to $1.043 trillion (before the sequester is applied) through September 2013 and prevents a shutdown of the federal government on March 27, when the current stopgap CR expires. In addition to authorizing federal funding for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, the bill also includes detailed budgets for the U.S. Departments of Defense; Veterans Affairs; Agriculture; Commerce; Homeland Security; and Justice; as well as NASA. While these agencies would still be subject to across-the-board sequester cuts, having their full budget bills in place could help them plan more effectively to reduce the impacts of the cuts.
The Senate bill boosts funding for several programs above what the House approved, including:
Fully funds highways, transit, and road safety programs at the authorized levels, a difference of almost $700 million, saving 25,000 jobs;
Expands Child Care and Development Block Grants, providing $50 million more than the House to support care for 9,000 more children from working families and adds $33.5 million to Head Start, giving more kids a jump start on their education;
Provides an additional $35 million more than the House CR for Byrne grants, the main federal tool to help state and local law enforcement and COPS grants, to help put new police on the beat;
Provides an additional $221 million more than the House CR for National Science Foundation grants to help support the innovation needed to grow the economy in order to create jobs today and tomorrow;
Provides $19 million more than the House to protect the nation from cyber warfare, one of the greatest national security and economic security threats facing America today;
Provides $33 million in additional support to state and local governments for fire grants to train and equip firefighters. And the Senate bill increases first responder grants by $208 million above the House CR;
Provides $71 million more than the House CR for research on cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and other devastating diseases; and
Provides an additional $12.8 million to ensure there are enough federal meat and poultry inspectors to improve food safety and allow food plants to maintain operations;
Provides an additional $250 million not included in the House-version to help rural communities improve access to clean water and waste disposal, creating construction jobs today and improving community health;
Provides $16 million to help protect National Heritage Areas and extends the authorizations of 12 national heritage areas -- including the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Area -- so they can continue to receive their partnership grant funding from the National Park Service.
Now that it has passed the full Senate, the CR must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives before it can be signed into law.