The Senate joined the House Friday in passing a stopgap spending bill, directly challenging President Bush who earlier in the day vowed not to sign the measure and let the government shut down at midnight.
The bill, which also delayed automatic spending cuts required by the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget law, was sent to Bush's desk after Senate leaders spent hours trying to keep senators from offering controversial, time-consuming amendments.The measure passed the Senate on a unanimous voice vote after the House approved it on a 300-113 vote.
The shutdown of government services, ordered earlier in the day by the administration, was made necessary after the House early Friday morning defeated a bipartisan budget plan worked out between the Bush administration and congressional leaders.
Had that budget bill passed, Bush would have agreed to a second temporary spending bill keeping government agencies and services funded through Oct. 19 and delaying imposition of automatic spending cuts required by the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget law.
But after it failed on a 254-179 vote, a disappointed Bush said Friday he would not accept another temporary spending bill that delayed the automatic spending cuts. He said he would neither sign the bill nor veto it, which would have the effect of letting the government shut down at midnight.
Bush urged Congress to quickly develop an alternate budget plan and to pass it before the midnight deadline when the government would officially run out of money.
White House press secretary Marin Fitzwater said Bush wanted a government shutdown or the imposition of the automatic cuts to "discipline" members of Congress.
"We do not believe at this time there should be a cessation of programs of the federal government and consequently we hope the president will agree to a very short extension" of government funding," House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., said after an emergency caucus of House Democrats earlier Friday.
The defeated budget plan included a politically painful package of tax increases on gasoline, alcohol, cigarettes and other items, a $60 billion cut in Medicare and other provisions that angered members of both parties and the voters, who registered their disgust in calls to congressional offices.
While Bush and Congress squabbled publicly over whether to keep the government operating or to impose the automatic cuts, administration aides and top congressional leaders met privately in a frenzied drive to craft an acceptable substitute for the rejected budget plan.
At the White House, a disappointed Bush said he would refuse to sign another stopgap spending measure and had no interest in delaying the start of automatic spending cuts called for under the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget law as a penalty for failing to slash the deficit.