House easily passes $1T omnibus spending bill with 359-67 vote

January 15, 2014, 04:19 pm

House easily passes $1T omnibus spending bill with 359-67 vote

By Pete Kasperowicz and Erik Wasson

Anne Wernikoff and Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday easily approved a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that funds the government for the rest of fiscal 2014, and will let Congress avoid the risk of a shutdown until the end of September.

The three Democrats who voted no were Reps. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Rush Holt (N.J.), and Mike McIntyre (N.C.), a centrist Democrat who is retiring at the end of this Congress.

Some Republicans were known to oppose the bill, given their opposition to restoring some of the sequester cuts that were agreed to as part of the budget deal struck late last year. The bill allows discretionary spending to increase by $45 billion compared to the sequester.

“True, it adheres to the budget that was passed in December, but that’s nothing to brag about,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said of the spending bill. “That budget destroyed the only meaningful constraint on federal spending that we had.”

McClintock and others were also upset at the rushed process that required the House to pass the bill after having just a few days to examine its 1,500 pages.

While most Democrats clearly preferred funding the government over risking a government shutdown, Democrats also complained that the process needs to improve.

“This can be described very charitably as a mixed bag,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). “This is a 1,500-page bill that nobody has actually read.”

Yet the bill won even more support than the two-year budget deal it was based on.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he was surprised by the strong vote

“I’m almost giddy,” he said. “I think it’s a really good demonstration of trying to work across the aisle and across the dome.”

Rogers said the vote bodes well for completing all 12 appropriations bills on time this year, something that has not been done since 1994, and for other bipartisan accords.

“I really think this is setting a tone that will last,” he said. The chairman then carried a list of those who opposed his bill back to his office. “I like to keep track of who is for what,” he said.

Rogers and others have been hopeful that passing the 2014 bill will clear the decks and allow them to go back to regular order as they consider funding bills for 2015. They also hope it will prevent repeats of last fall’s government shutdown.

“The December budget agreement and this bill sets us on a path to fulfilling our basic responsibility of the annual spending bills,” said ranking committee member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

The debate was left to Lowey and Rogers — top House leaders of both parties did not appear at all. GOP leaders recommended a “yes” vote, while Democratic leaders made no recommendation.

The White House backed the bill, which the Senate is expected to take up the legislation later this week.

The bill is the first fully detailed spending plan for the government since the 2012 omnibus passed in late 2011. The government has been running on a series of stopgap measures since then.

The bill makes several policy compromises, and Rogers cited some that Republicans can point to as victories.

“Throughout the bill, we’ve maintained pro-life policies, and protected Second Amendment rights,” he said. “We’ve made sure that this bill provides no new funding for ObamaCare, and have even cut existing ObamaCare funds to the tune of over $1 billion.”

Rogers was referring to a $1 billion cut to a preventive health fund under ObamaCare, which Republicans have called a “slush” fund. The GOP can also point to language that gives Wall Street regulators less money than they wanted to enforce the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and Pentagon cuts that spared readiness and major weapons systems.

Democratic supporters touted large increases for social programs like Head Start and for medical research by the National Institutes of Health, as well as a 1-percent pay increase for blue-collar federal workers. Democrats were able to ensure that ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law were not entirely defunded, and that most of 134 policy riders House Republicans sought were removed from the bill.

Elsewhere, the bill cuts the budget of the Internal Revenue Service, a GOP target after last year’s revelations that the IRS made it harder for conservative groups to win tax-exempt status.

Conservatives also pointed to a number of riders that were included in the bill, such as key coal-industry items inserted by Rogers. One would  allow the Export-Import Bank to finance coal projects abroad.

The bill pays $174,000 to the widow of Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who died late last year. Despite some criticism, Congress continues to make these “death gratuity” payments to the families of members who die in office.

House passage means it’s up to the Senate to approve the bill by Saturday, when government funding expires. Passage is expected by Friday.

While some Senate Republicans will oppose it, Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Wednesday predicted the bill would pass the Senate easily. “We had a caucus Monday night… and I believe we will have a healthy number,” he said.

This story was updated at 4:48 p.m.
Read more:
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: