Image: Eric Cantor
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., answers questions from reporters on President Obama's jobs bill, the debt reduction supercommittee and the economy, Monday, Oct. 3, 2011, on Capitol Hill.
updated 10/4/2011 3:37:12 PM ET 2011-10-04T19:37:12

The House passed a spending bill Tuesday to fund the government for six weeks, giving Congress and President Barack Obama more time to iron out their differences on a $1 trillion-plus pile of unfinished budget work.

The 352-66 vote sent the measure to Obama in time to avert a government shutdown at midnight. The Senate passed the measure last week.

Debate lasted just minutes.

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"We need to keep the doors of the government open to the American people who rely on its programs and services," said the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "Furthermore, our economy cannot handle the instability that comes with the threat of a government shutdown."

The vote gives lawmakers additional time for what is sure to be an onerous task: passing the 12 annual spending bills that lay out the day-to-day operating budgets for Cabinet agencies and departments.

The GOP-controlled House, the Democratic-run Senate and the president are in agreement on an overall $1 trillion-plus budget for the government.

Still, there's plenty of disagreement over which programs should be increased and which should get cut the deepest.

Republicans are pressing big cuts to foreign aid and to preserve some budget gains for the Pentagon; Democrats and Obama want more money for domestic programs like job training and heating subsidies for the poor.

At the same time, House Republicans are seeking to use the bills to attack Obama's policies on health care and financial services, environmental regulations and labor rules. GOP lawmakers also are fighting on behalf of conservative social policies such as eliminating federal aid for family planning and barring health care plans for federal workers from covering abortions.

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The short-term measure sets a Nov. 18 deadline to wrap up the unfinished spending bills. But it's by no means a sure thing that a bitterly divided Congress and the White House will be able to do so.

Tuesday's vote, in which more than 50 Republicans broke with party leaders supporting the legislation, demonstrated the difficult hand that GOP leaders must play in the negotiations.

Republicans will need support from Democrats to counter opposition from about tea party Republicans, who have signaled their opposition to the spending legislation required to put in place this summer's budget agreement. That makes it challenging for Republicans to maintain a hard line in negotiations.

After passing half of the 12 appropriations bills, House GOP leaders have pulled the plug on floor debates on the rest, apparently because of these party divisions.

The Senate has passed a single bill, though Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised additional action this month on up to three of the measures.

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The likely result is a reprise of this spring's omnibus spending bill. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was forced to drop numerous policy provisions in late-stage talks with Obama and make concessions to Democrats on spending priorities.

GOP leaders may not be in a rush to seal such an agreement, especially with Congress scheduled to work in December anyway on legislation approved by a special deficit committee that's likely to focus on benefit programs.

The House vote ended a battle over whether some relief aid for victims of Hurricane Irene and other natural disasters should have been offset with budget cuts.

Lawmakers sidestepped the dispute by dropping $1 billion in disaster relief and accompanying cuts to a loan guarantee program to help automakers retool factories to meet new fuel economy standards.

In the end, the government's main disaster aid account was awarded $2.7 billion through an earlier emergency spending measure, which the administration says is enough to take care of disaster needs over the next few weeks. Several billion dollars more is on the way as part of a final agreement.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explainer: The debt supercommittee

  • This 12-member panel is tasked with finding $1.5 trillion more in debt savings. It has until Nov. 23 to propose ways to reduce deficits. Those proposals must be voted on by Dec. 23.

  • Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

    Image: Kyl
    Shawn Thew  /  EPA
    Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

    Kyl has served in Congress since 1987, with four terms in the House before winning his Senate seat in 1994. He’s retiring at the end of 2012. He has served as Senate Republican whip since 2007. Kyl has served on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee since 2001.

    Story: Pelosi names final members to debt supercommittee

    He has been an adept and dogged debater throughout his career, but draw scorn from Democrats when he said in April, “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” The fact-checking site, Politifact said Kyl’s estimate was far off.

  • Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

    Image: Toomey
    Jeff Fusco  /  Getty Images
    Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

    Toomey worked on Wall Street in the 1980s and as a restaurateur in Allentown, Pa., then served in the House for three terms. In 2004, he challenged Sen. Arlen Specter, who was then a Republican, in a primary, losing by less than 2 percentage points.

    Story: Exclusive: Republican Dave Camp rules nothing out for debt panel

    After heading the anti-tax group Club for Growth, Toomey returned to Pennsylvania in 2010 and won the Senate nomination, Specter having left the Republican Party. Toomey won the general election by 2 percentage points over Democrat Joe Sestak, partly by attacking him for voting for the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

    Story: Latest picks for debt panel spark some pessimism

    When he worked on Wall Street, Toomey told viewers in a campaign ad, “I learned that Wall Street is the last place that should ever get a taxpayer bailout.” He voted against the budget and debt ceiling deal negotiated by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, arguing, “Not only will our debt grow each year under this plan, it will continue to grow even as a percentage of our economy ... I am concerned that the long-term cuts over the next decade will not materialize.”

  • Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio

    Image: Portman
    Tim Sloan  /  AFP/Getty Images
    Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio

    Although a first-term senator, Portman has worked in Washington, on and off, since his days as a lawyer for an influential Washington lobbying firm in the 1980s and then as associate White House counsel and congressional liaison for President George H. W. Bush, starting in 1989. He served seven terms in the House, beginning in 1993, and then did stints under President George W. Bush as U.S. Trade Representative and as budget director.

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    In last fall’s election, Portman easily defeated an underfunded Democratic opponent, getting 57 percent of the vote – this in a state which Barack Obama had won in 2008 with 51 percent. He brings a deep knowledge of both politics and budget details to the committee.

  • Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash./Co-chair

    Image: Patty Murray
    J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP
    Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

    Murray, as the self-described “mom in tennis shoes” and with scanty political experience, won her Senate seat in 1992 and has proven to be a durable politician and a skillful member of the chamber's Appropriations Committee.

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    Despite her re-election race last year being rated a tossup in late summer, she defeated Republican opponent Dino Rossi, winning 52 percent of the vote. Some reform groups have criticized her for serving on the deficit reduction committee while she is chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the fundraising and candidate recruiting arm of her party. But Murray’s response hearkens back to her “mom in tennis shoes” persona: "Multitasking is something every mom knows how to do."

  • Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

    Image: Baucus
    Robyn Beck  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

    Although rarely seen on television and not given to flamboyant speechmaking, Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is one of the most powerful people in Washington. His first job in Washington was in 1967 as an attorney for a now-defunct federal agency, the Civil Aeronautics Board. Baucus won a House seat in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal and was elected to the Senate in 1978.

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    Since 2001, with one interruption when Republicans were in control of the Senate, he has chaired the Finance Committee, playing decisive roles in writing the 2001 tax cuts into law and in designing last year’s health care overhaul.

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    Last year, he served on the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, but voted against its recommendations, such as raising the eligibility age for Social Security retirement benefits and raising the gasoline tax, which he said “would hurt people in states like Montana who often have to travel long distances.”

  • Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

    Image: John Kerry
    Mian Khursheed  /  REUTERS
    Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

    Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, Kerry brings the perspective of a party leader and a 26-year Senate veteran. He has served on the Senate Finance Committee for many years and was a strong advocate of President Obama’s health care overhaul. He tried last year to design climate change legislation in partnership with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., contrasting it with the health care bill. "Health care never, ever became bipartisan,” he said. But in end, Kerry’s effort couldn’t gain enough momentum.

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    He complained shortly before the 2010 elections that Republicans were creating “a period of know-nothing-ism in the country, where truth and science and facts don't weigh in. It's all short-order, lowest common denominator, cheap-seat politics.”

  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas/Co-Chair

    Image: Hensarling
    Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
    Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas

    The Texan is probably the most conservative member of the joint committee. He opposed the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program which bailed out Wall Street firms, saying TARP was “a step down the slippery slope to socialism.”

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    In the 1990’s, he served as an aide to Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, helping run the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Last year, he served on the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, but voted against its recommendations which included tax increases (by phasing out deductions and credits) and reductions in entitlement spending. Explaining his “no” vote, Hensarling said, “If I believed that the increased revenue would actually be used for deficit reduction, you know, I might reluctantly come to the table ... .” But he said when he looked at Reagan’s agreeing to tax increases in 1982 and George H.W. Bush’s tax reversal in 1990, “It just seems to me that somehow the spending restraint never quite materializes, and yet the increased revenues do, and it seems like the increased revenues simply chase more spending.

  • Rep. David Camp, R-Mich.

    Image: Camp
    Harry Hamburg  /  AP file
    Rep. David Camp, R-Mich.

    Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, which writes tax law and runs the entitlement programs (Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid), Camp is a 21-year House veteran. Like many other members of Congress, Camp worked on the Hill as a staffer — in his case, as chief of staff in the 1980s for the Republican who once held the same seat he now holds.

    Story: Exclusive: Republican Dave Camp rules nothing out for debt panel

    Neither flashy, nor particularly charismatic, Camp is a wonkish, detail-oriented legislator. He voted for the 2008 financial sector bailout and the auto industry bailout, but is staunchly conservative on most issues. President Barack Obama carried his Michigan district with 50 percent of the vote in the 2008 election.

  • Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

    Image: Upton
    Chip Somodevilla  /  Getty Images
    Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

    Of the six Republicans serving on the committee, Upton is the only one who might be called "moderate" or who has occasionally deviated from the party line on a major issue (he opposed President Bush’s 2007 Iraq troop surge). After the 2010 election gave Republicans control of the House, some conservatives tried to block Upton from becoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

    Story: Pelosi names final members to debt supercommittee

    FreedomWorks, a group headed former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, assailed his votes to bail out the auto industry and financial firms. "He has consistently been one of the least fiscally conservative Republicans in the House," FreedomWorks Max Pappas told Congressional Quarterly. But Upton, an ally of Speaker John Boehner, prevailed. Like fellow committee member and fellow Michigander Dave Camp, Upton has been on Capitol Hill for decades, having won his seat in 1986. Before that, Upton worked as a staffer for Rep. David Stockman, and then went with Stockman when he became President Ronald Reagan’s budget director in 1981. Obama carried his district with 54 percent of the vote in the 2008 election, but Bush won it in 2004 with 53 percent.

  • Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C.

    Image: Clyburn
    Chip Somodevilla  /  Getty Images
    Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C.

    Clyburn, first elected to the House in 1992, served as Democratic whip when his party had the majority from 2007 to the end of 2010. He represents one of the nation’ poorest and most heavily Democratic congressional districts. After the 2010 GOP wave, Clyburn was left as the only Democrat in his state’s six-member congressional delegation.

    Story: House Democrats tap 3 for deficit super committee

    Referring to the deficit and the national debt, Clyburn told a South Carolina newspaper just before his appointment to the deficit reduction committee, “Entitlements aren’t causing these problems. This is just blaming poor people ... when fat cats in the upper 2 percent (of Americans) are getting tax cuts.”

  • Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

    Image: Beccerra
    Chip Somodevilla  /  Getty Images
    Rep. Xavier Beccerra, D-Calif.

    Elected in 1992, Becerra represents a district in Los Angeles which President Obama won in 2008 with 80 percent of the vote. He serves on the House Ways & Means Committee, and also served on the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, but voted against its recommendations, complaining that the deficit and debt had been created mostly by President Bush and Republicans in Congress.

    “We cut taxes for the wealthy in a time of war and recession and never paid for it,” he said. He also said, “We cannot balance the federal budget with 15 million Americans out of work.” And he contended that “short-term deficits, incurred for policies that promote economic recovery and investment, are not incompatible with responsible, long-term deficit reduction.”

  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

    Image: Van Hollen
    Manuel Balce Ceneta  /  AP
    Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

    Senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Van Hollen is perhaps the House Democrats’ most ubiquitous spokesman on national television, rarely missing a chance to do battle with Republicans. He chaired his party’s House campaign committee — in both good times for Democrats (2008) and during the 2010 election debacle.

    Story: House Democrats tap 3 for deficit super committee

    He opposes short-term deficit reduction, saying, “This focus on the near term on just cutting, cutting, cutting is actually the opposite course that we should take. We need a long term plan to reduce the deficit. But in the short term it is counterproductive to make these deep cuts.”


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