Bloomberg News

Congress Passes Budget Measure to Avert Government Shutdown

November 23, 2011

(Updates with Senate passage in second paragraph.)

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Congress gave final approval to a $182 billion budget measure to keep federal agencies operating past tomorrow.

The Senate voted 70-30 for legislation providing 2012 budgets for five Cabinet departments while continuing current funding for the rest of the government through Dec. 16. Lawmakers will seek budget agreements for the other agencies before that deadline.

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature after clearing the House earlier today on a 298-121 vote. A temporary “continuing resolution” funding the government at 2011 levels expires tomorrow night.

The House’s Republican majority needed help from Democrats to approve the plan after some in their own ranks complained the bill spends too much and includes provisions extending government subsidies to the housing industry. More than 40 percent of the House Republican caucus -- 101 lawmakers -- opposed the plan while 165 Democrats supported it.

The legislation includes three of the dozen appropriations bills that lawmakers must pass each year to keep the government running. The bill funds the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, along with NASA and many other programs, through the 2012 fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.

Amtrak, Nutrition

Democrats thwarted Republican efforts to cut Amtrak, local law-enforcement grants and a program providing nutritional assistance to impoverished mothers of infants.

Republicans blocked Obama’s request to increase by one- third the budget of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is responsible for helping implement the 2010 overhaul of financial-industry regulations. The agency instead will be funded at roughly its current level.

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, called it a “terrible act of irresponsibility” that would “open us up to the kind of irresponsible, unregulated financial behavior that led to the greatest crisis that we’ve had in so many years.”

Republicans also secured provisions in the bill blocking an Obama administration initiative to make school lunches healthier.

The bill would increase the maximum mortgage the Federal Housing Administration can insure to $729,750 from $625,500. Many Republicans opposed this move, especially after the administration issued a report saying there is a 50 percent chance the FHA will need taxpayer aid to bolster its insurance fund.

In a compromise, lawmakers agreed to drop provisions sought by Senate Democrats that would have raised limits on the size of mortgages that may be bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The budget bill is separate from the continuing supercommittee negotiations that seek a long-range plan to cut spending by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

--With assistance from Phil Mattingly in Washington Editors: Don Frederick, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at bfaler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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