WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives approved a $1.043 trillion spending package Wednesday that would keep the federal government funded through the end of September and provide the Pentagon with more flexibility in implementing across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in March 1.
The spending package is subject to $85 billion in across-the-board cuts for this fiscal year through Sept. 30, half of which must come from defense spending. The cuts affect nearly all reaches of the federal government except military personnel and the social safety net.
The 267-151 vote included more than 50 Democrats voting in favor and broad support within the GOP. Republicans sought to give the Pentagon more flexibility by attaching two detailed spending bills affecting defense to better protect high priority programs from the cuts.
Democrats opposed the spending package in large part because they want to give other federal agencies similar flexibility to manage cuts among other domestic programs. Democrats in the Senate are working on a package to do just that in preparation for a Senate vote next week.
The two chambers will have to reconcile the differences before March 27 to avoid a government shutdown. The White House has indicated that President Obama would likely sign a package if it upholds the cuts, known as the sequester, and can pass a divided Congress.
The president and congressional lawmakers continue to discuss alternative paths to the sequester, but a bipartisan compromise for long-term deficit reduction remains elusive.