By updating spending priorities, then, House Republicans were able to reallocate resources to better uses without raising the politically messy issue of altering the sequester, which began falling across nearly all government priorities on March 1.
To the House bill, Senator Mikulski and the top Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, added updated budgets for other federal departments, including Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, as well as government science spending.
Senate leaders also allowed a handful of slight tweaks to the bill, such as a bipartisan amendment brought by Sen. Roy Blunt (R) of Missouri and Sen. Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas that will keep food inspectors on the job.
All the while, Mikulski and Senator Shelby stayed in close contact with both Senate and House leaders to ensure the final package would be able to be taken up whole by the House before both chambers leave Friday for the two-week home work period around the Easter holiday.
The orderly, assiduously bipartisan process was a stark departure from the teeth-gritting budget negotiations of years gone by, where Republicans would use the need to extend government funding or to raise the debt ceiling as a point of leverage against Democrats.
But even so, many Republicans opposed the bill because some, like Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona and Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma, dug up a handful of spending they found wasteful but could not get expunged from the final legislation.
Given the scope of the legislation, plenty of lawmakers were frustrated by being unable to offer amendments of interest to their state.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R) of Kansas slowed consideration of the entire measure for more than a day in what turned into a vain attempt to force a vote on his preferred amendment, which would have helped shield some air traffic controllers at rural airports from being cut. Sen. Rob Portman (R) of Ohio opposed the measure in part because he’d rather NASA invest in existing facilities – including two in Ohio – than build new ones.