US Lawmakers Approve Government Funding

Posted December 17th, 2011 at 6:10 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. lawmakers have avoided a partial government shutdown by voting in favor of a bill to fund federal operations through September 2012.

The Senate approved the roughly $1 trillion spending bill Saturday by a vote 67 to 32, one day after it passed the House of Representatives.

A shutdown would have forced government departments to halt non-essential operations and put tens of thousands of federal employees on unpaid furlough.

Republican and Democratic leaders praised the outcome of the vote, saying both sides had to compromise.

The Senate also overwhelmingly approved a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut that boosts paychecks for 160 million Americans.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was “very pleased” with the agreement, despite the fact that he had sought an extension of one year.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the vote, Mr. Obama said it would be “inexcusable” for Congress not to further extend the tax cut for the rest of the year. He said he expected lawmakers to approve it after they return from their holiday break in January.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives, where lawmakers could vote on it as early as Monday. If approved, it will go to the president for his signature.

The bill the Senate approved contains a provision that would force Mr. Obama to make a final decision within 60 days about construction of a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf coast. Many Democrats and environmentalists oppose that project.