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A: Because last year, it could not agree on spending. Rather than engage in a pre-election slugfest, it agreed in September to put off the debate until after the election and adopted a stopgap measure to fund the government through March 27 at fiscal 2012 levels, though many programs could get a 0.612 percent increase.
Q: What will the new bill do?
A: Specifics remain unclear. The House passed its bill Wednesday, the Senate plans to act next week, and then a negotiating committee will try to iron out a deal. The final agreement is likely to set spending levels at $984 billion for the rest of this year and continue funding most agencies at last year’s levels, minus the automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1.
Q: Will the sequester continue?
A: Yes, but it could be tweaked. The Republican-led House wants to make changes in military and veterans funding, while Democrats are talking about doing the same for more domestic programs.
Q: Is another stopgap measure likely for the fiscal year that begins in October?
A: The House and Senate are expected to adopt their own versions of budget outlines by April 15, but chances they will agree on one plan don’t seem good. Then they have to settle on the dozen spending bills by Oct. 1. That rarely happens.
McClatchy News Service