Efforts to stave off a late March government shutdown have shifted to the Senate after House Republicans swiftly passed legislation to keep federal agencies running, while also easing some of the effects of $85 billion in budget cuts.
The House legislation is the first step toward averting a possible fiscal showdown this month. It was approved Wednesday in a bipartisan vote.
If another budget crisis can be avoided, it could clear the way for lawmakers and President Barack Obama to restart talks on a longer-term deficit reduction plan. That was Obama's focus during a rare dinner with a dozen Republican senators Wednesday night at a hotel near the White House.