News / USA

US Congress Approves Stop-Gap Spending Measure

Congressmen walk down the steps of the House of Representatives as they work overnight on a spending bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 18, 2011 (file photo)
Congressmen walk down the steps of the House of Representatives as they work overnight on a spending bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 18, 2011 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Michael Bowman

The U.S. Congress has approved a stop-gap measure to fund the federal government for the next two weeks. The bill, approved Wednesday 91 to 9 by the Senate, postpones a possible government shutdown, and gives Democrats and Republicans a brief window to agree on spending levels for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September.

The bill, called a continuing resolution, is one small stride in what members of both political parties say must be a long march to reduce America’s $1.5-trillion federal deficit.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn compares government debt to an illness. "We have a real disease in our country today. And the disease is a cancer that will take away our freedom."

The approved measure trims expenditures by $4 billion in the short term - a down payment on far deeper cuts sought by Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Even though it was only a two-week bill, and a $4 billion reduction in spending, it is the first time I can recall, in the time that I have been here, our actually cutting spending on an appropriation bill," said McConnell.

McConnell said crushing debt is suffocating the U.S. economy. "We have added $3 trillion to the [national] debt since the beginning of the Obama administration, while we have lost 3 million jobs. I think you could argue pretty persuasively that is the worst way to run the government.  And we want to stop that."


The Republican-controlled House of Representatives already has passed a budget bill for the remainder of the fiscal year that slashes spending by more than $60 billion.

Democrats, who control the Senate, say the cuts go too far.  "At a time when the gap between the very, very wealthy and everybody else is growing wider, will we try to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, on the backs of the poor, on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children?," said Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent who often votes with the Democrats.

Democratic legislators are proposing more modest cuts, while President Barack Obama has advocated a five-year freeze on domestic non-security spending. Democrats warn severe budget cuts would harm a weak U.S. economic recovery and erode America’s long term competitiveness.

President Obama praised the stop-gap spending bill’s passage and urged Congress to make further progress on a bipartisan basis.

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin struck a somber note after voting for the continuing resolution. "I do not think passing a spending bill for 14 days is anything to celebrate. It is going to take a super-human effort by the White House, as well as congressional leaders, to achieve a new spending bill for the remainder of the year in just two weeks, but we are going to roll up our sleeves and get after it."

Analyst Bill Gallston of the Brookings Institution said that even if current-year spending levels are agreed to, bigger budget battles remain.

"There is a much longer-term conversation that has to begin about the budget for the new fiscal year [2012] and actually for a five-year timeframe. That will be a very difficult conversation."

Gallston said Democrats and Republicans will have to compromise and show flexibility if government shutdowns are to be avoided and America’s fiscal position is to improve.

"If both parties mean what they are now saying, then we are in for a very rough time in the United States."

Polls show the American people angry and worried about federal debt, but divided on whether a government shutdown is beneficial to force fiscal restraint. For now, Washington has a two-week reprieve to try to bridge partisan differences and forge a way forward.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More