The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 27, 2013

Senate set to OK budget bill, but fight not over

WASHINGTON (AP) — A potential government shutdown hurtling ever closer, the Democratic-led Senate is ready to approve legislation keeping federal agencies from locking their doors on Tuesday. But disputes with the Republican-run House and among GOP lawmakers themselves ensure that the battle will spill into the weekend at least, and quite possibly beyond.

The result: a high-stakes showdown that is playing out in a climate of chaos, infighting and unpredictability that is extraordinary even by congressional standards.

The Senate planned votes Friday on the measure preventing a shutdown. Senators were expected to pass it after derailing a conservative effort to block the bill and after removing House-approved language that strips money from President Barack Obama's health care law.

That would bounce the legislation back to the House, where GOP leaders already have declared that the pared-down Senate bill was insufficient.

With conservatives insisting that the shutdown bill and a separate debt limit measure present an opportunity to demolish the Affordable Care Act and slash spending, House leaders were not saying what, if any, decisions they had made on strategy.

No votes on the budget bill were expected in the House until at least the weekend. The Senate measure would allow hundreds of thousands of employees at dozens of agencies to continue working, while shielding lawmakers from public scorn.

GOP disunity over what to include in the debt limit measure forced leaders to indefinitely delay that legislation, which is aimed at preventing a damaging, first-ever federal default that the Obama administration has warned could otherwise occur by Oct. 17.

At one point Thursday, GOP divisions burst into full view on the Senate floor as a pair of conservatives, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, forced the Senate to wait until Friday to approve its bill preventing a shutdown.

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