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Senate vote: OK $85B cuts, avert shutdown

Published: 3/21/13 @ 12:00


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to lock in $85 billion in widely decried spending cuts aimed at restraining soaring federal deficits — and to avoid a government shutdown just a week away. President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats rejected a call to reopen White House tours scrapped because of the tightened spending.

Federal meat inspectors were spared furloughs, but more than 100 small and medium air-traffic facilities faced possible closure as the two parties clashed and cooperated over proposals to take the edge off across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on March 1.

Final House approval of the measure is likely as early as today. Obama’s signature is a certainty, meaning the cuts will remain in place at least through the end of the budget year on Sept. 30 — even though he and lawmakers in both parties have criticized them as random rather than targeted. Obama argued strongly against them in campaign-style appearances, predicting painful consequences, before they began taking effect, and Republicans objected to impacts on Pentagon spending.

Without changes, the $85 billion in cuts for the current year will swell to nearly $1 trillion over a decade, enough to make at least a small dent in economy-threatening federal deficits but requiring program cuts that lawmakers in both parties say are unsustainable politically.