Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending billWASHINGTON — The Senate on Sunday passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government, including health, education, law enforcement and veterans’ programs.
By: Jim Abrams, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Sunday passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government, including health, education, law enforcement and veterans’ programs.
The more-than-1,000-page package, one of the last essential chores of Congress this year, passed 57-35 and now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The weekend action underlined the legislative crush faced by Congress as it tries to wind up the year. After the vote, the Senate immediately returned to the debate on health care legislation that has consumed its time and energy for weeks. Senate Democrats hope to reach a consensus in the coming days on Obama’s chief domestic priority.
The spending bill combines six of the 12 annual appropriation bills for the 2010 budget year that began Oct. 1. Obama has signed into law five others.
The final one, a $626 billion defense bill, will be used as the base bill for another catch-all package of measures that Congress must deal with in the coming days. Those include action to raise the $12.1 trillion debt ceiling and proposals to stimulate the job market.
The spending bill passed Sunday includes $447 billion for departments’ operating budgets and about $650 billion in mandatory payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs under immediate control of Congress would see increases of about 10 percent.
The FBI gets $7.9 billion, a $680 million increase over 2009; the Veterans Health Administration budget goes from $41 billion to $45.1 billion; and the National Institutes of Health receives $31 billion, a $692 million increase.
All but three Democrats voted for the bill, while all but three Republicans opposed it. Democrats said the spending was critical to meet the needs of a recession-battered economy. “Every bill that is passed, every project that is funded and every job that is created helps America take another step forward on the road of economic recovery,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.
Republicans decried what they called out-of control spending and pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion in the bill for more than 5,000 local projects sought by individual lawmakers from both parties.
The legislation also contains numerous items not directly related to spending. It provides help for auto dealers facing closure, ends a ban on funding by the District of Columbia government for abortions and allows the district to permit medical marijuana, lets Amtrak passengers carry unloaded handguns in their checked baggage and permits prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay to be transferred to the United States to stand trial, but not to be released.
The bill also approves a 2 percent pay increase for federal workers.
With the Senate concentrating on health care, attention on the upcoming jobs plan shifts to the House.
The defense bill that will be the basis for the package normally enjoys wide bipartisan support, but Republicans, and some fiscally conservative Democrats, are unhappy with the prospect of another jolt of deficit-swelling spending.
Congress must soon raise the debt ceiling, now at $12.1 trillion, so the Treasury can continue to borrow, and Democratic leaders are eyeing a new figure close to $14 trillion, pushing the issue past next November’s election.
HOW THEY VOTED
The 57-35 roll call vote by which the Senate approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill.
A “yes” vote is a vote to approve the measure.
Voting yes were 52 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 2 Independents; voting no were 3 Democrats and 32 Republicans.
Amy Klobuchar, D, Y; and Al Franken, D, Y.
Russ Feingold, D, and Herb Kohl, D, voted yes.