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House GOP aide: thumbs up on Senate spending plan

By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
March 12, 2013 -- Updated 1810 GMT (0210 HKT)
Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby released the Senate Appropriations Committee budget plan Monday night.
Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby released the Senate Appropriations Committee budget plan Monday night.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A GOP aide says the House is likely to accept a Senate spending bill
  • The Senate plan would soften the impact of forced cuts in several critical areas
  • The Senate plan was put together by Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby
  • Congress must pass a new spending bill by March 27 to avoid a government shutdown

Washington (CNN) -- House Republicans are inclined to support a new Senate plan to keep the government funded through the end of September, a senior House GOP aide told CNN Tuesday.

The GOP-run House will likely back the plan if senators don't change it because the measure keeps an overall total of $85 billion in forced spending cuts and doesn't include new funds for either President Barack Obama's health care reform or the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law, the aide said. It also keeps federal pay freezes intact and maintains tight congressional control over agency budgets, two priorities for conservatives.

The Senate Appropriations Committee plan, which reduces the impact of the forced spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year, was unveiled late Monday night. It was released by Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the panel's top Democrat and Republican, respectively.

This measure "lets us wrap up fiscal year 2013 so we can get to next year's budget and find a balanced solution" to the controversial cuts, Mikulski said in a written statement released late Monday night.

"At a time when many doubt whether Congress can accomplish anything at all, this agreement is a very clear demonstration of our commitment to work together," added Shelby.

"This is a new day in the Senate," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Tuesday morning. "We're so grateful for the hard work of Mikulski and Shelby."

Leaders in both chambers are trying to reach an agreement on spending for the rest of the fiscal year before March 27, when the current government spending authorization expires.

A partial government shutdown would occur if Congress fails to extend funding authorization by the deadline, but top officials in both parties say they don't want another political showdown over the legislation.

"There is no will on either side of this institution that wants to do that," Mikulski said Tuesday. "We are absolutely committed to no shutdown, no showdown, no lockdown, no slamdown. We want to do the job."

The full Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to vote on the committee's spending bill, known in Washington as a continuing resolution, before the end of the week. The measure builds on a bill passed by the House on March 6.

Among other things, the Senate bill would mitigate the impact of indiscriminate, across-the-board forced cuts by establishing new budgets at the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, and Commerce, as well as NASA. Following the House GOP's lead, it takes similar steps at the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

By making new funding decisions, the bill allows spending to rise for a number of sensitive programs. Spending on food safety would increase, to cite one example.

Overall, however, the federal government would spend $984 billion for the rest of the fiscal year -- a drop from the $1.043 trillion total set before the forced spending cuts took effect.

CNN's Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report

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