Both Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker voted Wednesday in favor of legislation to fund the federal government for the next six months, describing their actions as votes that would cut government spending.
The continuing resolution, or CR, was approved by the Senate in a 73-26 vote. A similar item was passed by the House earlier this month, with Rep. Chuck Fleischmann supporting and Rep. Scott DesJarlais opposing. The House is expected to approve the Senate version of the bill this week, sending it to President Barack Obama's desk before a potential government shutdown on March 27.
The CR as passed maintains the spending cuts mandated by the $85 billion sequester and shifts additional billions to provide cover for defense programs that have been threatened since the reductions were implemented March 1.
In a news release, Alexander said he supported the bill because it reduced government spending in 36 percent of the budget to 2008 levels. Alexander did not specify which programs had been reduced to the level five years ago.
"It's an improvement over the House bill because it includes five appropriations bills, which provide important flexibility for dealing with the across-the-board cuts required by sequestration—including the Defense Department," he said. "The challenge now is the out-of-control, automatic spending increases in mandatory entitlements, which are growing at two to three times the rate of inflation and threaten Medicare and other programs that seniors depend upon."
Corker offered a similar take, saying he would now like to see focus shifted to reforming national entitlement programs.
"This continuing resolution is significant because it contains real cuts," he said. "Total discretionary spending for this fiscal year will actually be lower than last fiscal year—and in Washington, that's a good first step. That said, running the U.S. government on a series of short-term spending bills isn't the way we should be doing business. We will get back to regular order, setting priorities and making tough decisions that will make our economy and country stronger now and in the future by making structural changes to the biggest drivers of our debt—Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."