Senate sends 3-week funding bill to Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved an additional $6 billion in spending cuts Thursday, passing legislation to keep the government running through April 8 and allow time for talks on a larger package of reductions demanded by Republicans.

“The president is optimistic that Congress can get this done,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

The measure brought the total of cuts to $10 billion since Republicans took control of the House in January on a promise to rein in the federal government. It cleared the Senate on Thursday on 87-13 vote one day after passing the House.

Administration officials have already met with top aides to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry, Reid, D-Nev. to discuss a compromise package of cuts that would be included in a longer-term bill funding the government for the six months remaining in the budget year.

The House has passed a bill calling for $61 billion in cuts, but it lacks enough support to pass in the Senate, and Obama has threatened to veto it.

Any attempt to cut significantly into the red ink would have to expand beyond the domestic programs covered by the bill that passed Thursday, and include benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

With a new three-week timetable set for negotiations, Republicans, Democrats and the White House all maneuvered for position.

“It’s time for President Obama to finally come to the table and start engaging in this discussion,“ Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a statement.

The Senate voted as House Republicans were approving yet another bill to cut spending, this one drafted to end federal support for National Public Radio.

The bill cleared on a partisan vote of 228-192, and the White House issued a statement in advance criticizing the measure but stopping short of a veto threat.

The bill would bar the government from funding NPR, and prohibit local public radio stations from using any of their federal funds to pay dues to the organization or buy its programs.

The bill faces strong opposition in the Senate.

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