The House of Representatives on Friday approved a $915 billion spending package that will keep the government running through Sept. 30, but a separate agreement aimed at avoiding a Social Security payroll tax increase Jan. 1 remained elusive.
The Senate is expected to approve the spending plan as soon as Saturday.
Without congressional action, many government agencies would run out of money as of midnight Friday, but any closings would be avoided as long as the plan is passed this weekend.
But facing another deadline, Senate leaders Friday reached a tentative deal to extend expiring provisions for two months. They would pay for the continuation of the Social Security tax cut and Medicare payments at current levels, and extension of certain jobless benefits with higher charges on mortgages financed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Also included in the package would be a provision forcing the Obama administration to make an expedited decision on the Keystone pipleine.
The two-month extension, which the Senate could vote on as soon as Saturday, is expected to stir controversy in both parties. It sets up an election year fight over the provisions. In addition, many lawmakers, already concerned constituents view them as ineffective, fear they'll have to go home next week without being able to resolve a major dispute.
The Social Security tax paid by employees, now 4.2 percent, is scheduled to revert to its 2010 level of 6.2 percent on Jan. 1. Also due next month: A 27.4 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians and a cutoff of unemployment benefits to long-term jobless workers.
Congressional leaders continued negotiating Friday and remained optimistic that a deal would be reached.
In the meantime, there was little rancor over the spending plan, which was passed by a 296-121 vote.
"This bill has been worked on carefully," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who called it a "positive step ...