US & Canada

US Senate near passage of budget bill to avert shutdown

The US Capitol building
Image caption The budget could see final passage this week

The US Senate has taken a crucial step toward passage of a bill to fund the US government through October, the end of its fiscal year.

The bill overcame a procedural obstacle on Monday and is expected to pass the chamber on Tuesday, before final passage in the House the following day.

The bill retains $85bn (£56bn) in spending cuts this year that took effect on 1 March, but gives agencies new flexibility in implementing them.

It averts a shutdown set for 27 March.

In particular, US senators were keen to guard programmes in their home states from potentially devastating budget cuts, analysts say.

Assuming President Barack Obama signs the bill, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will next have to forge an agreement on the US government's budget for its next fiscal year, which begins 1 October.

Republicans and Democrats have been locked in a series of fiscal battles for years. Much of the struggle has focused on how best to reduce the government's budget deficit, which has hovered around $1tn.

Republicans demand dramatic spending cuts, mostly to domestic social programmes backed by Democrats, and adamantly oppose increasing taxes.

The Democrats led by President Obama prefer a mix of tax rises and spending reductions.

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