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Senate advances bill to avoid government shutdown

The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday to fund the United States through the end of September, making a big step toward averting a threatened government at the end of this month.

Senators voted 73 to 26 to approve the bipartisan budget legislation, which provides just over $1 trillion in budget authority, a level of spending which reflects the spending cuts stipulated by the budget sequester that took effect at the beginning of March.

Consideration of this Senate bill – known as a “continuing resolution,” or “CR” – had stalled in recent weeks due to objections from conservative Republicans who said they wanted to read the bill and offer amendments. Democrats finally struck an agreement with Republicans on those amendments on Wednesday, allowing a final vote on passing the spending package to move forward.

The legislation now heads to the Republican-controlled House, which could take up the bill as soon as Thursday. Though the GOP had already passed its own version of the CR from the House, indications point toward passage of the Senate version. The law would then head to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had threatened late evenings and weekend work – potentially through the Senate’s upcoming holiday recess to complete both the CR and work on Democrats’ first budget in four years.

After staving off a shutdown, lawmakers will next turn toward reconciling their different budget proposals ahead of a mid-May deadline to extend the nation’s borrowing authority. Immigration reform and proposed new restrictions on firearms also sit atop Congress’s springtime agenda.