Political Notebook

Bipartisan deal puts off spending fight till after election

The announcements by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (above) and GOP House Speaker John Boehner are aimed at averting any chance of a government shutdown this fall.
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
The announcements by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (above) and GOP House Speaker John Boehner are aimed at averting any chance of a government shutdown this fall.

WASHINGTON — The top Republican and Democrat on Capitol Hill disclosed an agreement Tuesday to keep the government running on autopilot for six months when the current budget year ends on Sept. 30.

The announcements by Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid and GOP House Speaker John Boehner are aimed at averting any chance of a government shutdown this fall. The legislation is expected to pass in September.

The deal would also lighten the crush of business in a postelection congressional session agenda that is already overloaded.


‘‘The speaker and I and the president have agreed that we’re going to fund the government for the next six months,’’ Reid said. ‘‘It’ll provide stability for the coming months.’’

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The agreement would fund the government at levels called for by last summer’s budget and debt pact between Boehner and President Obama.

While precise details will be ironed out during the August congressional recess, the deal embraces spending at a total annualized rate of $1.047 trillion for the day-to-day operations of Cabinet departments like the Pentagon and other federal agencies.

‘‘We are encouraged that both sides have agreed to resolve this issue without delay,’’ White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

That is a retreat for Republicans, who had sought to cut $19 billion below the budget agreement reached last summer with Obama and shift $8 billion more from domestic agencies to the Pentagon. The alternative of risking a government shutdown just weeks before Election Day was an unacceptable alternative to GOP leaders, who want to keep the spotlight off of Congress and on the presidential race in the weeks running up to Nov. 6.


A House GOP leadership aide said the decision to take the issue of a government shutdown ‘‘off the table’’ was intended to keep the larger focus on jobs and the economy, where Republicans think Obama has failed and is most politically vulnerable.

The six-month funding bill punts a huge number of decisions into the lap of the next Congress and whoever inhabits the White House. If Mitt Romney is president, he has promised immediate 5 percent across-the-board cuts to most domestic appropriations accounts funded by Congress every year. Obama vows to live within the 10-year spending ‘‘caps’’ agreed to last year.

New round of sanctions on Iran gains strong support

WASHINGTON — A new package of severe sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping, and financial sectors gained strong congressional support Tuesday as lawmakers sought to ratchet up the economic pressure in hopes of halting Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement late Monday on legislation that builds on the current penalties directed at financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank. The new bill would impose sanctions on anyone who mines uranium with Iran; sells, leases or provides oil tankers to Tehran; or provides insurance to National Iranian Tanker Co., the state-run shipping line.

Iranian officials quickly criticized the latest round of penalties, labeling the economic pressure ‘‘warfare’’ and promising to retool the country’s oil-dependent economy.


In an election year, US lawmakers were determined to punish Iran while sending a strong signal of support to Israel amid fears about the Iranian threat to the close Mideast ally. In a separate move, President Obama used his executive authority to impose fresh sanctions on foreign banks in China and Iraq that the United States says helps Iran evade the penalties.

The Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate said Tuesday they expect swift passage of the latest package of sanctions after a House vote tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.

‘‘It would be better to have that down on the president’s desk by the end of the week,’’ Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters.

The measure has one crucial backer — the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying group — and extensive support from Republicans and Democrats.

‘‘That will go a long way,’’ Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said of the group’s support. Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, who pushed for the shipping sanctions, called the bill a good move at a critical time.

The latest round of sanctions came as the White House disclosed separate penalties on banks in China and Iraq that the Obama administration said have helped Iran evade international sanctions.

The new penalties target China’s Bank of Kunlun and Iraq’s Elaf Islamic Bank.

In a statement, Obama says the sanctions make clear that the United States will expose any financial institution that assists ‘‘the increasingly desperate Iranian regime’’ to access the international financial system.