WASHINGTON - What once seemed likely to be yet another blistering congressional budget battle ended Thursday in a punt, as a bipartisan House majority approved a temporary measure funding the federal government from Oct. 1 through March 27.
The spending measure locks into place for another six months virtually all the federal spending levels for fiscal 2012, which ends Sept. 30.
That means there's no significant change in spending for programs that are especially important to Western New York, such as home energy assistance and funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the West Valley Demonstration Project.
What the deal represents, though, is something of an attitude adjustment on the part of House Republicans, who brought the government to the brink of a shutdown during battles over budget bills last year.
"I think we're continuing down the path of reducing overall federal spending," said Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning. "We do want to keep the government from shutting down. It's prudent to complete this and move forward."
But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, offered a different take on things.
"There's no better alternative," he said of the spending bill.
Repeating his call for greater federal infrastructure spending to boost the economy, Higgins said:
"This [budget bill] is exactly the opposite of what should be happening. We're falling behind, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves."
The spending bill passed by a vote of 329-91. All four of Western New York's lawmakers supported it.
The measure now moves to the Senate, which is expected to pass it next week as one of the last major legislative actions of the year.
The Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, returned to the Capitol to vote for the measure, even though it trims spending by $19 billion less than the budget plan that he has been pushing.
Republicans defended their retreat from such broader budget cuts by calling the temporary spending bill a responsible way to lock in the budget savings they won in the budget battle of a year ago.
"This represents a good-faith effort to provide limited but fair funding for government programs" while avoiding a government shutdown, said Rep. Harold D. Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Meanwhile, Democrats lamented the fact that once again, the House had not passed the 13 appropriations bills that are supposed to fund the government for the entire fiscal year ahead and that again, the House had settled for a stopgap measure.
"This only kicks the can down the road again," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. "It does not represent the regular order that we must return to for a sound representative government."
The bill, called a continuing resolution, does nothing to address the so-called "fiscal cliff" - the massive, automatic 10-year budget cuts that are set to take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress acts in the interim.