Budget measure shifts to Senate

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Efforts to stave off a late March government shutdown shifted to the Senate after House Republicans swiftly passed legislation to keep federal agencies running, while also easing some effects of $85 billion in budget cuts.

The legislation that cleared the House on Wednesday on a bipartisan vote.

It would ensure funding through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year while granting the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department greater flexibility in implementing their share of short-term spending cuts.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Democrats and the White House are negotiating with Republicans on changes that would give the Homeland Security Department and other domestic agencies the flexibility that the Pentagon would receive in administering cuts.

The House legislation is the first step toward averting a possible fiscal showdown this month.

If another budget crisis can be avoided, it could clear the way for lawmakers and President Barack Obama to restart talks on a longer-term deficit reduction plan.

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