Washington (CNN) - The Senate easily passed a spending bill Thursday to keep the government funded for three more weeks as lawmakers and the White House work to bridge their deep divide on a larger spending package that will run through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.
The vote was 87 to 13. Four Democrats and nine Republicans voted against it.
The House already passed the stopgap bill, which - at the insistence of Republicans - cuts $6 billion from current funding levels. Now it will go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
With support waning for additional short-term spending bills, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle vowed to make this the last temporary measure before striking agreement on a longer-term bill.
For several weeks - and as recently as Wednesday - top aides to the president and congressional leaders have met quietly behind the scenes to resolve their differences over that longer-term bill. Vice President Joe Biden, who was in the Capitol Thursday for a St. Patrick’s Day lunch, stayed on the Hill afterwards to discuss the budget with lawmakers, his spokeswoman told CNN. However, a deal appears unlikely until closer to April 8, when this three-week spending measure expires, according to officials on both sides of the aisle.
Republicans are pushing for about $61 billion in cuts overall while Democrats say they will only accept a fraction of that. Complicating the disagreement over spending levels is the insistence by conservative Republicans that a host of controversial policy changes be included in a long-term bill. The changes would block funding for Planned Parenthood, prevent the implementation of the new health care law, and impose other restrictions opposed by most Democrats.
Despite the stark policy disagreements, Senate Democratic leaders went out of their way to praise House Speaker John Boehner for passing the three-week bill despite a backlash from many conservatives.
“I have to hand a bouquet to Speaker Boehner. He realized he didn’t have enough votes to pass it with Republicans. Rather than pull the bill he went to Democrats and said I need votes and got 85 of them,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “That’s the attitude we need to keep moving forward.”
The Democrats who voted against the bill are liberals concerned the cuts are too deep.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, voted for the bill. He complained, however, that Republicans are demanding “unconscionable” cuts from programs for vulnerable Americans including homeless veterans, poor children and pregnant women, while allowing millionaires to enjoy low tax rates.
The nine Republicans who voted no are conservatives who wanted deeper cuts.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is the conservative ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. He voted for bill, calling the $2 billion per week reduction in the short-term spending bill “significant.” However, he said people in Washington remain “in denial about the reality of the crisis we face” in terms of debt.