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House approves short-term spending plan as shutdown deadline approaches

It's now up to the Senate to pass the bill before government funds run out on Feb. 18.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House approved a short-term spending plan Tuesday evening that would keep the government funded through mid-March and avoid a shutdown as lawmakers continue negotiations on a long-term spending deal.

The chamber passed the stop-gap bill by a vote of 272–162, leaving it now up to the Senate to pass the bill and keep the lights on before current funds run out on Feb. 18.

The spending plan continues previous levels of government funding with a couple of unique provisions, including $350 million in funding to address the fallout of a November oil leak at the military's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. The crisis contaminated the majority of the water on Hawaii's island of O'ahu.

If approved by the Senate, this short-term spending plan, known as a continuing resolution, would be the third band-aid budget to be passed by Congress since the start of this fiscal year back in October.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut and head of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers are "very close to an agreement" on an omnibus bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

"I have every expectation we can finalize an omnibus in short order," DeLauro said on the floor of the House Tuesday, stopping short of providing a timeline for a long-term bill.

Partisan divides over spending on the military, domestic programs and the Hyde Amendment, a provision traditionally included in the yearly package that prevents federal dollars from going to abortions, have dragged out budget negotiations for months and forced the past two short-term spending bills through Congress along close party-line votes.

"No one wants to have a CR, but the alternative is much worse. If we don't pass a CR by next week, we could have an unnecessary and costly government shutdown. I think both sides agree that would be disastrous, especially for our national security," Representative Kay Granger, a Republican from Texas, said Tuesday.

But Granger made clear that a bipartisan omnibus package has not been agreed to yet.

"We will not support partisan bills that include irresponsible spending increases or extreme policies," Granger added.

With the Senate expected to pass the short-term bill before Feb. 18, lawmakers will have two weeks to sort out disagreements over funding the government in the long-term.

Representative Debbie Wassermann Schultz, a Democrat from Florida and head of the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, said that without a full-year appropriations bill, some military construction projects cannot move forward.

"Without full year appropriations bills, we risk up ending the greatest year of job growth the nation has ever seen. We risk knocking down ladders into our middle class. We risk our national security. We are close to a funding agreement thanks to our appropriations leadership, but we need time to finish that legislation in full," Schultz said.

Leaders in the defense and military fields have been increasing their pleas for Congress to take action on a full-year spending plan, warning the Appropriations Committee last month that more continuing resolutions would further delay new policies and funding levels laid out in the National Defense Authorization Act passed in December.

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