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Senate Approves CR, Leaves Washington Under Cover of Night

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

In a midnight session, the Senate wrapped up business until after the elections, clearing must-pass stopgap legislation that will keep the government funded through March.

The late votes came as the result of an agreement announced earlier in the day by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The continuing resolution passed the Senate 62-30 after clearing the 60-vote cloture hurdle. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last week.

The vote takes a potentially politically damaging fight over federal spending and a possible government shutdown off the table, enabling Members to return home and campaign.

Had no deal been reached to set up the early Saturday morning votes, Senators would have been stuck in town through the weekend.

Few Senators spoke to the spending package on the floor Friday, but in a Thursday speech, Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said he did not like the fact that the Senate could not complete its work on regular spending bills, even though his panel had completed the work of drafting most of them.

"I want my colleagues to know I support this measure even though it is far from perfect. In fact, I would say that it is not a particularly good bill, but passing it is much better than allowing the government to shut down over a lack of funding," Inouye said.

His Republican counterpart, whom Inouye calls the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, expressed similar frustration.

"The resolution represents a lost opportunity," Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said. "We have lost the opportunity to provide agencies with at least some certainty about funding for this fiscal year. We have lost the opportunity to make informed judgments about which programs are effective and deserving of additional resources, and which programs should be reformed or terminated."

Although both Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have served long tenures on the Appropriations panel, the chamber did not advance bills on the floor this year.

Under the deal, the vote on cutting off debate and final passage on the CR was moved up, along with a vote on relaxing regulations for sportsmen and fishermen, in exchange for allowing Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a vote on cutting off aid to Egypt, Libya and Pakistan. The deal also called for a vote on a measure urging "diplomatic and economic pressure" to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability.

Senators handily turned back Paul's bill, 10-81.

"In no way should the United States government be sending money to governments who are not our ally, who blatantly do not respect our country, and who work to compromise the safety of our allies and citizens abroad," Paul said before the vote. "I am pleased that the Senate leadership has listened to my pleas for an end to this and have agreed to debate and vote on this pressing issue."

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