WASHINGTON - The Senate approved legislation Wednesday to lock in $85 billion in widely decried spending cuts aimed at restraining soaring federal deficits - and to avoid a government shutdown just a week away. President Obama's fellow Democrats rejected a call to reopen White House tours scrapped because of the tightened spending.
Federal meat inspectors were spared furloughs, but more than 100 small and medium air-traffic facilities were left exposed to possible closure as the two parties alternately clashed and cooperated over proposals to take the edge off across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on March 1.
Final House approval of the measure is likely as early as Thursday. Obama's signature is a certainty, meaning the cuts will remain in place at least through the end of the budget year on Sept. 30 - even though he and lawmakers in both parties have criticized them as random rather than targeted. Obama argued strongly against them in campaign-style appearances, predicting painful consequences, before they began taking effect, and Republicans objected to impacts on Pentagon spending.