WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Senate on Thursday approved the latest in a series of stopgap measures designed to keep the government running, as lawmakers failed to hammer out a definitive federal budget deal.

The temporary spending measure, which passed by a vote of 87 to 13, is the sixth-short term funding bill approved by Congress to keep the government afloat, after negotiations faltered on a budget bill.

The government would have run out of money on Friday, March 18 had lawmakers not passed the measure.

The bill, which was approved in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, averts a federal government shutdown and gives Congress more time to find common ground on spending through the end of the fiscal year.

The White House and polarized lawmakers have been battling over long-term funding of the US government amid near-universal agreement that Washington needs to tighten its belt to reduce its swollen deficit and national debt.

The bill approved Thursday trims some $6 billion in government funds and gives lawmakers another three weeks to reach a more lasting budget deal.

But the White House expressed growing exasperation about the failure by Democrats and Republicans to make sufficient headway on a budget bill, and slammed piecemeal moves to "fund our government in two or three week increments."

The patchwork approach "adds uncertainty to our economy and distracts us from other urgent priorities facing our nation," said a statement by President Barack Obama's chief spokesman Jay Carney.

"Now is the time for Democrats and Republicans to come together and find a long-term solution that cuts spending without impeding our ability to win the future," the statement said.

"We all agree we want to cut spending, which is why we have already met Republicans halfway. But we will continue to oppose harmful cuts to critical investments in education, innovation, and research and development that we need to grow our economy and create jobs -- as well as oppose additions to the bill that have nothing to do with fiscal policy."