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U.S. Senate clears spending bill to avert government shutdown

The House is expected to give final approval this week to legislation that will give the Pentagon and some other departments more flexibility to deal with deep spending cuts that went into effect this month.
by Chris Casteel Published: March 20, 2013

The U.S. Senate cleared a spending bill Wednesday that will prevent a government shutdown but lock in the budget cuts expected to result in furloughs and other disruptions.

A Pentagon official said Wednesday that the legislation, which beefs up some Defense Department accounts and allows more flexibility in spending, may mean civilian employees are furloughed fewer than the 22 days previously announced. Oklahoma has about 24,000 civilian defense workers who may be subject to furlough days.

The bill passed 73 to 26, with both Oklahoma senators voting against. It now goes to the House, which is expected to approve it and send it to the president.

Before the final vote, senators voted on a series of amendments aimed at blunting the impact of the spending cuts that went into effect on March 1. An amendment by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, to maintain tuition assistance to military personnel was approved, as was a proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, to end some funding of political science research by the National Science Foundation.

An amendment by Coburn to resume White House tours and ensure the openings of national parks was defeated. The Senate passed an amendment to prevent furloughs of food inspectors. An amendment to protect air traffic control towers from closing at rural airports was not considered.

Funding for most government departments was set to run out next Wednesday, but lawmakers from both parties have worked to prevent another fiscal crisis in a town that has lurched from one to another in recent years.

The spending bill incorporates the $85 billion in spending cuts known as the sequester and funds the government through Sept. 30.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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