Congress sends Obama US$1.1 trillion spending bill


WASHINGTON, AP

The Senate voted 56-40 on Saturday for the long-term funding bill, the main item left on Congress’ year-end agenda. The measure provides money for nearly the entire government through the Sept. 30 end of the current budget year.

Obama has said he will sign the bill. He already signed a short-term spending bill on Saturday that will keep the federal government operating through Wednesday, easing concerns of a shutdown during the holiday season.

Senators approved the temporary measure Saturday afternoon with only hours to spare before an earlier such measure was set to expire.

The US$1.1 trillion spending measure had faced opposition from Democratic liberals upset about provisions that would roll back bank regulations imposed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and Republican conservatives unhappy that it failed to challenge Obama’s new immigration policy.

The fight over the spending bill reflects the Republicans’ new leverage after their sweeping victories in last month’s midterm elections. They will have control of the Senate and a stronger majority in the House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January.

The US$1.1 trillion spending bill, which was the main item left on the current Congress’ agenda, provides funds for nearly the entire government through the Sept. 30 end of the current budget year.

The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27. Republicans intend to try then to force Obama to roll back his immigration policy that removes the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Immigration was the issue that Sen. Ted Cruz, a favorite of the ultraconservative tea party movement, cited late Friday when he tried to challenge the spending bill with a proposal to cut funds that could be used to implement Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

That led to the unraveling of an informal bipartisan agreement to give the Senate the weekend off. It also gave Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed a chance to call an all-day Senate session Saturday devoted almost exclusively to the work of confirming about 20 of Obama’s nominees to judicial and administration posts.

Several Republicans blamed Cruz, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, for creating an opening for the outgoing majority party to exploit.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, made no public comment on the events, even though Cruz suggested Friday night that McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner should not be entirely trusted to keep their pledge to challenge Obama’s immigration policy in January.

Many Democrats, including Obama, recognized that if the current spending bill failed, Republicans would have passed an even more objectionable one when they take full control of Congress next month. Obama called the bill a classic compromise produced by “the divided government that the American people voted for.”