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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid