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Federal Funding Bill Approved, Focus Turns to Supercommittee

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Congress avoided the drama of earlier disputes on the federal budget by passing a continuing resolution Thursday to ensure the federal government remains open through mid-December.

President Obama signed the legislation Friday, as reported by Reuters, which keeps the government operating through Dec. 16. The House approved the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act by a 298-121 vote, then the Senate took only a short time to approve it 70-30.

Discretionary spending for 2012 is capped at $1.043 trillion, $7 billion less than 2011 levels.

As part of its approval of the CR, both houses of Congress approved a collection of annual appropriations bills for several federal departments and agencies in what was known on Capitol Hill as a “minibus” package.

The minibus legislation is the first time Congress has approved an annual spending bill since late 2009, according to a report from the Federal Times. The spending bills cover NASA, the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

Several agencies within Cabinet departments also received their own appropriations, as reported by Federal News Radio.

With some short-term certainty ensured, now the focus turns to the deficit reduction supercommittee as it faces a Thanksgiving deadline to come up with a proposal that would cut the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion.

Failure to do so will results in automatic cuts split 50-50 between defense and nondefense spending. Of particular concern to many is the possibility of more cuts to the defense budget, as the Pentagon is already under orders to cut its spending by $450 billion over the next decade.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly warned of what the additional cuts would mean for the Pentagon. During remarks Thursday at a General Dynamics facility in Groton, Conn., he made a simple request to the deficit panel.

“I urge this committee: Suck it up, do what’s right for the country,” Panetta said.

At a press conference Friday, as reported by ABC News, the Republican co-chair of the supercommittee acknowledged the time constraint and told reporters members will meet over the weekend if an agreement is not reached beforehand.

“We are painfully, painfully aware of  the deadline that is staring us in the face,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said. “We have 12 good people who have worked hard since this committee has been created to find sufficient common ground for an agreement that will simultaneously address both our nation’s jobs crisis and debt crisis, and clearly, when we have something more to report we will report.”

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