Thu., 9:21 pm: Senate easily passes $1.1 trillion spending bill
WASHINGTON – Congress sent President Barack Obama a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill today, easing the harshest effects of last year’s automatic budget cuts after tea party critics chastened by October’s partial shutdown mounted only a faint protest.
The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure, which cleared the House a little more than 24 hours earlier on a similarly lopsided vote. Obama’s signature on the bill was expected in time to prevent any interruption in government funding Saturday at midnight.
The huge bill funds every agency of government, pairing increases for NASA and Army Corps of Engineers construction projects with cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and foreign aid. It pays for implementation of Obama’s health care law; a fight over implementing “Obamacare” sparked tea party Republicans to partially shut the government down for 16 days last October.
Also included is funding for tighter regulations on financial markets, but at levels lower than the president wanted.
The compromise-laden legislation reflects the realities of divided power in Washington and a desire by both Democrats and Republicans for an election-year respite after three years of budget wars that had Congress and the White House lurching from crisis to crisis. Both parties looked upon the measure as a way to ease automatic spending cuts that both the Pentagon and domestic agencies had to begin absorbing last year.
All 53 Democrats, two independents and 17 Republicans voted for the bill. The 26 votes against it were all cast by Republicans.
Obama’s budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, called the bill’s passage a positive step for the nation and the economy. “It ensures the continuation of critical services the American people depend on,” she said in a blog post.