House sends huge $1.1T spending bill to Senate


AP

WASHINGTON — It’s now up to the Senate to pass a huge $1.1 trillion U.S. government-wide spending bill after the Obama White House and House Republicans joined forces to push it through the House over objections from Democrats that it would roll back bank regulations imposed in the wake of the economic near-meltdown of 2008.

The 219-206 vote cleared the way for a final showdown in the Senate �X the last major measure of a two-year Congress far better known for gridlock than for bipartisan achievement.

For all the maneuvering, there was no threat of a government shutdown and the House passed a measure providing a 48-hour extension in existing funding to give the Senate time to act on the larger bill.

In a rare public rebuke of President Barack Obama, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she was “enormously disappointed” he had decided to embrace the bill, which she described as an attempt at legislative blackmail by House Republicans.

The White House noted its own objections to the bank-related proposal in a written statement. But officials said that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both called Democrats in an attempt to secure enough votes for passage of the broader measure, which combined government spending and a new course for selected, highly shaky pension plans.

The outbreak of Democratic bickering left Republicans in the unusual position of bystanders rather than participants in developments that coincided with the approach of a midnight expiration of existing federal funding.

Still, there was plenty of drama in the House on the final major bill of this two-year Congress.

Earlier in the day, conservatives sought to torpedo the measure because it would leave Obama’s immigration policy unchallenged. But Speaker John Boehner patrolled the noisy, crowded House floor looking for enough Republican converts to keep it afloat.

He found them �X after the vote went into overtime �X in retiring Rep. Kerry Bentivolio and Rep. Marlin Stutzman. The vote to allow the measure to advance was 214-212.

The spending measure was one of a handful on the year-end agenda, with the others ranging from an extension of expiring tax breaks to a bill approving Obama’s policy for arming Syrian forces fighting President Bashar Assad.

The $1.1 trillion legislation provides funding for nearly the entire government through the end of the budget year next Sept. 30, and locks in cuts negotiated in recent years between the White House and a tea party-heavy Republican rank and file.

The only exception is the Department of Homeland Security. It is funded only through Feb. 27, when the specter of a shutdown will be absent and Republicans hope to force the president to roll back an immigration policy that promises work visas to an estimated 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

When Congress convenes in January, Republicans will have control of the Senate for the first time in eight years, and will hold their strongest majority in the House in more than eight decades.

The White House did raise objections to a provision that would roll back one of the regulations imposed on the financial industry after the economic near-collapse of 2008, and to a separate element of the bill that would permit wealthy contributors to increase the size of their donations to political parties for national conventions, election recounts or the construction of a headquarters building.

Democrats cited the same issues, but Boehner on Wednesday rejected their request to jettison either or both of the provisions. Republicans noted that 70 members of the Democratic rank and file supported easing the bank regulations on a stand-alone vote in October of last year.