Valdosta Daily Times

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January 16, 2014

House approves government-wide $1.1T budget

WASHINGTON — Party leaders pushed a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill for this year through the House on Wednesday, shunning the turmoil of recent budget clashes with a compromise financing everything from airports to war costs and brimming with victories and concessions for both parties.

The huge bill furnishes the fine print — 1,582 pages of it — for the bipartisan pact approved in December that set overall spending levels for the next couple of years. With that decision behind them, the measure sailed through the House with no suspense and little dissent — fueled additionally by lawmakers’ desire to avoid an election-year replay of last fall’s widely unpopular 16-day federal shutdown.

Approving the legislation “is showing the American people we actually are capable of working in a bipartisan manner,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. He praised the bill for holding down spending and said passage would be “the responsible thing to do. It’s the thoughtful thing to do.”

The measure was approved by a one-sided 359-67 roll call, with virtually all opposition coming from Republicans.

By its sheer size and detail, the measure had plenty for liberals and conservatives to dislike. Some Democrats said they would support it but only reluctantly, complaining that despite some increases, spending for education, health and other programs would still be too low.

“With this bill, we are waste deep in manure instead of neck deep in manure. Hooray, I guess,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Reflecting those mixed emotions, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., praised the measure because she said it would “get us out of this cycle of governing by crisis.” But she added that its spending for social programs was “far too low for too many people to really achieve the American dream.”

The Democratic-run Senate planned to bestow final congressional approval of the legislation by the end of the week.

To keep agencies functioning while Congress votes on the legislation, the Senate by a 86-14 vote gave final congressional approval to a measure financing the government through Saturday. An earlier short-term spending measure expires after midnight Wednesday evening.

The giant bill debated Wednesday heads off an additional $20 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagon’s budget — on top of $34 billion imposed last year — and cuts to many domestic programs as well. The reductions were being triggered by a 2011 law that forced the cuts after President Barack Obama and Congress failed to negotiate budget savings.

Conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action were urging lawmakers to oppose it, but the White House urged its passage.

“We met compelling human needs. We certainly preserved national security,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chief author of the spending bill with her House counterpart, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

The measure provided money for Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul and his revamping of federal oversight of the nation’s financial markets — though not as much as he requested. It continued age-old restrictions on federal financing of most abortions, but lacked new ones. Democrats also blocked GOP-sought curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate utilities’ greenhouse gas emissions.

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