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Analysis: Lawmakers Focus On March 27 Spending Bill Deadline

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Federal lawmakers are facing a new battle over federal spending. Congress must agree on a bill to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year before the current spending resolution expires on March 27, or face the prospect of a federal shutdown. Leaders in Congress are moving to put a spending bill into place, and one local lawmaker is leading the push for her party's proposal. David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, gives an analysis of the situation.

On how the federal spending bill will look like under Sen. Barbara Mikulski's direction: "She is the new chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, so it falls to her to essentially try to write legislation that reflects more Democratic priorities, more of the president's priorities, than the Republicans. Just to remind people, the current stopgap spending law expires on Wednesday, March 27. But really the deadline is the weekend before because Congress is hoping to take a recess... The challenge here is that very few people are concerned about turning off the sequester's cuts. They're only talking about rewriting the sequetser's priorities... Sen. Mikulski believes in more domestic spending, social programs, science research... all of the things that are important to the Democrats."

On how the Democratic strategy going to change over the next couple of weeks: "Last week, there was some talk among the Democrats that they would threaten a government shutdown unless the Republicans were willing to turn off the sequester and replace it with some tax increases, and the things of course that the Democrats think are the better alternative to cutting $85 billion across the board just from the military and domestic programs. But the president said he essentially didn't want to do that. So the debate in the three weeks ahead... we think that altering the sequester in one important way, it was supposed to be 50/50 in cuts from the Pentagon and cuts from domestic programs, it sounds like the Republicans are going to be moving a bill that would do away with $7 billion worth of those defense cuts."

On whether we would be able to see changes that would protect defense, but come out of the domestic side: "I think in the end the Democrats aren't going to go for that one. I think the likeliest compromise to get Washington's agencies through the end of the year will be that continued 50/50 split."

Listen to full analysis here.

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