The Senate has approved must-do legislation to fund the day-to-day budgets of five Cabinet agencies, kick-starting long overdue work to add the details to budget limits agreed to by President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans this summer.
The bipartisan 69-30 vote came on a $182 billion bundle of three bills to fund programs including transportation, space exploration, housing subsidies and the FBI for the 2012 budget year that started a month ago.
Under the budget pact enacted in August, lawmakers have to cut about $7 billion — or less than 1 percent — from the more than $1 trillion budgeted last year for the daily operations of federal agencies. Such cuts are too small for tea party conservatives but would come in addition to savings from benefit programs like farm subsidies and Medicare expected from a deficit "supercommittee" later this month.
The budget limits, however, mean large cuts to programs like community development grants to local governments and subsidies for cities and towns for new equipment and less for the hiring of additional police officers. Highway funding would be held at last year's levels, save for $1.9 billion in emergency help for states to rebuild from natural disasters.
Overall, the legislation holds agency budgets like the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service mostly flat relative to last year. The retirement of the Space Shuttle allowed NASA to absorb a cut of $509 million, or 3 percent, while Section 8 housing subsidies for the poor would get a $663 million increase, or about 2 percent.