Senate creeps forward on legislation to avoid government shutdown

By Derrick Cain

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2013 - The Senate overcame a procedural hurdle today, with a 100-0 vote, to advance a continuing resolution  (H.J.Res.59) that would keep government departments, including USDA and FDA, funded at FY 2013 levels through mid-December.

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The shutdown, which would affect non-essential government functions, is set for Oct. 1.

The Senate voted to begin debate on the House bill, which includes the defunding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to move to strip out that provision, and change the CR's ending date to mid-November.

The next procedural vote to advance the bill could occur Thursday night.

Reid has met with strong opposition from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who spoke for about 20 hours about his opposition to Obamacare.

If tomorrow's vote receives at least 60 votes, there would likely be another cloture vote on Saturday, and final passage with a simple majority could occur late Sunday.

Then, if the legislation clears the Senate, it would get shot back to the House, which would need to approve it with no change in order to send it to the president.

While a shutdown would not affect USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) as inspectors would remain on the job, the workload within other support functions at FSIS, such as administrative appeals and labeling, could be impacted. Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program will stop.

In addition, a shutdown could halt funding for the Foreign Agricultural Service's Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program.

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