Senate passes measure funding veterans' programs

The Senate has passed its first spending bill for the upcoming budget year, a $73 billion measure funding increases for veterans' health care programs.

The politically popular measure passed on a sweeping 97-2 vote. It may be one of the very few of the 12 annual spending bills setting the day-to-day budgets of Cabinet agencies to become law by an Oct. 1 deadline for the start of the 2012 budget year.

Differences with the House measure shouldn't be too difficult to reconcile.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is so far behind in producing a budget or further appropriations bills, it's virtually certain that one or more stopgap funding measures will be needed to avoid a partial government shutdown in October.