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Political Notebook

House passes stopgap measure to keep government going

Associated Press / October 5, 2011

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WASHINGTON - The House passed a spending bill yesterday to fund the government for six weeks, delaying a series of battles over spending and policy that include everything from labor law and environmental regulations to abortion and the Pentagon budget.

The 352-to-66 vote sent the measure to President Obama in time to avert a government shutdown at midnight. That ended a skirmish over disaster aid that seemed to signal far more trouble ahead as Obama and a bitterly divided Congress begin working to iron out hundreds of differences, big and small, on a $1 trillion-plus pile of 12 unfinished spending bills.

Fifty-three Republicans defected on the measure, which was calibrated to spend money at rates equal to an August budget-cutting deal between Congress and Obama that still permits too much spending for many Tea Party conservatives.

For weeks officials fought over disaster aid after House Republicans insisted that $1 billion in emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Irene and other natural disasters should have been offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. House and Senate Democrats opposed the idea, particularly over cuts to a loan guarantee program that helps automakers retool factories to meet new fuel economy standards.

But a face-saving compromise last week - the Senate dropped the $1 billion in aid and the cuts to clean energy programs - paved the way for yesterday’s vote. Debate lasted just minutes.

“We need to keep the doors of the government open to the American people who rely on its programs and services,’’ said the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky. “Furthermore, our economy cannot handle the instability that comes with the threat of a government shutdown.’’

A far more difficult task loomed: passing the 12 spending bills that lay out the day-to-day operating budgets for Cabinet agencies and departments.

On one hand, the task was made easier by the fact that the GOP-controlled House, the Democratic-run Senate, and the president were in agreement on an overall $1 trillion-plus budget for the day-to-day operations of government agencies.

Still, there remained plenty of disagreement over which programs should be increased and which should be cut the deepest. Republicans were pressing big cuts to foreign aid and to preserve some budget gains for the Pentagon; Democrats and Obama wanted more money for domestic programs such as job training, Pell college grants, and heating subsidies for the poor.

Democrat wins W. Virginia special governor election CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin narrowly won a special election for governor in West Virginia yesterday, overcoming Republican attempts to tie him to President Obama and the health care overhaul.

Tomblin, who has served as acting governor since Joe Manchin stepped down in November after he won a Senate seat, defeated Republican drilling executive Bill Maloney. He will serve the remaining year of Manchin’s term.

Republicans were upset Tomblin didn’t join a majority of other states that sued the Obama administration over the health care plan.

With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Tomblin had 49 percent compared with Maloney’s 47 percent, according to unofficial results.

Donors gave Romney extra via super PAC, analysis saysTUCSON - More than 50 donors who contributed the maximum amount to Mitt Romney’s official presidential campaign often gave much more cash to an outside group supportive of his White House run.

A new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, Democracy 21, and the Campaign Legal Center found many of those donors contributed as much as $1 million to the Restore Our Future super PAC - far more than the $2,500 donors are allowed to give directly to Romney’s official campaign.

Campaign watchdogs have assailed the shift of big money to the new PACs, but the groups say they’re exercising their rights under a 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United.

The new super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money and are becoming major players in the 2012 race.

Cain’s book tops charts after he won straw poll NEW YORK - Herman Cain is surging in the polls and on the bestseller charts.

“This is Herman Cain,’’ a memoir by the businessman and Republican presidential candidate, debuted in the top 10 on Amazon.com when it was released yesterday. Interest in the book has soared since Cain unexpectedly won the Florida straw poll on Sept. 24.

ASSOCIATED PRESS