Senate Democrat unveils bill preventing shutdown

AP News
Posted: Mar 07, 2013 4:33 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Senate ally of President Barack Obama said Thursday that Democrats won't push controversial ideas like additional money to implement signature party initiatives as the chamber advances a huge spending measure that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September.

Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said there's a "delicate balance" between supporting Obama administration priorities and going too far as to "sink the bill."

Mikulski said the Senate would give agencies including the Agriculture, Homeland Security and Justice departments their detailed, line-by-line budgets as part of legislation advancing next week to head off a government shutdown at the end of March. Other agencies would run on autopilot essentially at last year's funding levels. Automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon would apply whether or not an agency received its detailed budget.

Mikulski spoke shortly after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, warned Democrats controlling the Senate not to load up the funding measure "with extraneous provisions, partisan riders (and) budget gimmicks." The Maryland Democrat said she was not being "provocative or pugilistic" but that her party has priorities like additional funding for transportation.

Mikulski also said that she would include a provision to give federal agencies greater flexibility to shift money around to cope with automatic, across-the-board spending cuts imposed last week on virtually every federal agency.

The House passed a narrower version of the spending bill on Wednesday, one that focused on giving the Pentagon additional money for military readiness and boosting spending on veterans programs.

Mikulski only characterized the Senate measure in broad terms. It won't be revealed fully until floor debate begins next week. Congress faces a March 27 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Both the House and the Senate bills are expected to give budget relief to a few agencies — the FBI and the Border Patrol among them — to help them avoid having to furlough employees once the automatic cuts, known as a sequester, begin to bite. Other programs receiving new funding include security for embassies and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Mikulski took over the powerful appropriations committee after the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, in December.