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Senate approves new stopgap spending measure

The 87-13 Senate vote approves a spending bill that keeps the federal government open for three more weeks as the White House and Congress continue negotiations on a final budget. Already approved by the House, it is likely the last of such short-term measures, which have drawn increasing opposition from conservative Republicans.

March 17, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington – — The Senate on Thursday approved a spending measure that keeps the federal government open for three more weeks, likely the final short-term resolution before Congress and the White House must agree on a final budget for the fiscal year.

The vote was 87-13 to approve the bill, which brings to $10 billion the total amount cut from 2010 spending levels.

Like the similar vote in the House on Tuesday, the legislation generated greater opposition from increasingly vocal conservative Republicans eager to see cuts on par with the $60-billion figure that the lower chamber approved last month. That new spurt of opposition points to the difficulty ahead in negotiating a final deal to get through September, when the 2011 fiscal year ends.

When the Senate passed a two-week extension on March 2, President Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden with leading the talks with congressional leaders over a final budget. The Senate rejected the House's plan, as well as a Democratic alternative with far more modest spending reductions. The parties made little progress in bridging that gap, requiring another interim measure.

Each side has argued that these stopgap measures create uncertainty that threatens the economic recovery. The three-week extension, the sixth lawmakers have approved, gives lawmakers additional breathing room to reach a deal, following the congressional recess and President Obama's five-day trip to Latin America.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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