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Congress easily passes $1.1T spending bill


Shutterstock / Orhan Cam

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress has easily passed a $1.1 trillion bill easing the harshest effects of last year's automatic spending cuts after tea party critics chastened by the government shutdown in October mounted only a faint protest.

The sweeping 72-26 Senate vote to fund the government through September sends the bill to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature before a midnight Saturday deadline. The House easily passed the bill on Wednesday.

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 down the government for 16 days in October.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A $1.1 trillion bill easing the harshest effects of last year's automatic spending cuts neared final congressional approval Thursday with wide-scale bipartisan support after tea party critics chastened by last October's government shutdown mounted only a faint protest.

A Senate vote Thursday evening on funding the government through next September was the only step remaining to getting the bill to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature before a midnight Saturday deadline, when a temporary funding measure expires. The House passed the bill Wednesday with an overwhelming 359-67, bipartisan majority.

The huge bill funds the operations of virtually 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 cements a tight lid on government spending demanded by Republicans while paying for the implementation of Obama's health care law and 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.

Shortly before the final vote, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, delivered a slashing attack on Senate Democrats, accusing them of ignoring the problems caused by the health care law. "It is abundantly clear that millions of Americans are being harmed right now by this failed law," Cruz said.

Unlike last fall, when he spoke for 21 straight hours and helped force a government shutdown over defunding "Obamacare," this time he clocked in at 17 minutes and simply asked the Senate to unanimously approve an amendment to strip out Obamacare funding. Democrats easily repelled the maneuver.

The 1582-page bill was really 12 bills wrapped into one in negotiations headed by Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., respective chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, and their subcommittee lieutenants. They spent weeks hashing out line-by-line details of a broad two-year budget accord passed in December, the first since 2009.

The bill increases spending by about $26 billion over fiscal 2013, with most of the increase going to domestic programs. Almost $9 billion in unrequested money for overseas military and diplomatic operations helps ease shortfalls in the Pentagon and foreign aid budgets.

The nuts-and-bolts culture of the appropriators is evident throughout the bill. Lower costs to replace screening equipment, for example, allowed for a cut to the Transportation Security Administration. Lawmakers blocked the Agriculture Department from closing six research facilities. And the Environmental Protection Agency is barred from issuing rules on methane emissions from large livestock operations.

Another provision exempts disabled veterans and surviving military spouses from a pension cut enacted last month. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signaled in a brief hallway conversation with The Associated Press that he would oppose a broader drive to repeal the entire pension provision, which saves $6 billion over the coming decade by reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working age military retirees by 1 percentage point.

The National Institutes of Health's proposed budget of $29.9 billion falls short of the $31 billion budget it won when Democrats controlled Congress. Democrats did win a $100 million increase, to $600 million, for so-called TIGER grants for high-priority transportation infrastructure projects, a program that started with a 2009 economic stimulus bill.

Civilian federal workers would get their first pay hike in four years, a 1 percent cost-of-living increase. Democrats celebrated winning an addition $1 billion over last year for the Head Start early childhood education program and excluding from the bill a host of conservative policy "riders" advanced by the GOP.

Rogers won two provisions backed by the coal industry. One would block the EPA and Corps of Engineers from working on new rules on "fill material" related to the mountain top removal mining. Another would keep the door open for Export-Import Bank financing of coal power plants overseas.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a tea party favorite, didn't mention the measure's funding of Obamacare in a floor speech earlier in the week; instead he complained at length that the measure dropped funding of a federal program that sends payments to Western states in which much of the land is owned by the federal government and therefore can't be taxed by local governments.

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
ricklexus January 17 2014 at 2:57 AM

Hello...you can't "buy" an economy. Jobs come from innovation and those few who take the real risks in life, yes, sorry but that is the 5%, the rest are praying those 5% can find something productive and home grown. I'm not talking about the already rich, i'm talking about those who are working on solutions to our problems and have some financial capacity to make them a reality. Anyone can spend money to create temporary jobs, but the debt or cost of that so-called investment remains long after those funds have been spent. To have true value, it must create long-term jobs...not something that needs additional capital to continue. Spending $25 Billion on benefits does nothing, you're better off investing $1 million on 2500 new ventures.

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Richard January 16 2014 at 8:45 PM

Has this country gone completly BONKERS? I hear about Social Security going insolvent, but never a word about Welfares fate. What gives? I guess I better take speach classes in Chinese. We have been sold down the perverbial $hitter.

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2 replies
kulpw40 Richard January 16 2014 at 9:09 PM

Welfare is the Democrat's ticket to the government's purse strings. Social Security would be alright if it was only handed out to the ones who paid for it. What we need to do is set term limits and restore states rights and limit the retirement of elected people to SS levels.

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1 reply
Richard kulpw40 January 16 2014 at 10:07 PM

kulpw40, you got my vote.

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Carl Richard January 16 2014 at 10:19 PM

Think! There's no reason social security has to become insolvent. A very simple fix would be to remove the income cieling. You don't hear that do you? Ever wonder why?

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paddleman1928 January 16 2014 at 9:00 PM

and congress will easily spend more than the 1.1 TRILLION-that is why the never pass a BUDGET-that wouldlimit spending. This way they just pass one bill after another aND SPEND WHATEVER THEY WANT. nO PROBLEM-THE TAXPAYER JUST GOES FURTHER INTO DEBT

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aghughes January 16 2014 at 9:08 PM

It kind of takes away a lot of what the dems were planning on running against. Now with the label of the party of no to Obamas spending tarnished it gives them even less to run on in the midterms. The dems better pray that something starts to go right with Obamacare and more before the elections or it is checkmate.

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2 replies
lima16 aghughes January 16 2014 at 10:15 PM

I DON;T BELIEVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE THAT STUPID TO SAY ONE YEAR OFFSETS 3 YEARS OF SAYING NO

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Carl aghughes January 16 2014 at 10:18 PM

The afordable health care act is actually a fine program. I'm more concerned with the source of the negative publicity. I am a memeber and know of many who are also happy. I have seen lies posted in regards to the program and am concerned as to the reason behind those. I suspect some just want to see it fail, there are others who most likely are facing reduced profits and against it for those reasons. I suggest following the money and the truth most likely will be revealed.

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1 reply
Hi Mary and Dave Carl January 16 2014 at 10:55 PM

Sorry Carl, I don't agree. Our insurance is gonna cost us 1200.00 A MONTH! And because we make 45,000 a year, we get no subsidy or help. Once again, the middle class takes it up the you-know-what!

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megod January 17 2014 at 6:54 AM

and they didn't vote on unemployment extentions for 1.4 million americans
shame on them

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ROBERT J'S January 16 2014 at 10:18 PM

spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend spend 1,000,000,000,000..++++++

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1 reply
sbc7788 ROBERT J'S January 16 2014 at 11:01 PM

Wow you spelled "spend" correctly each time. Amazing.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
madkono January 16 2014 at 10:30 PM

just a measly 1.1 trillion??? what, are they growing a conscience???

Flag Reply +2 rate up
mgwhaley January 16 2014 at 10:56 PM

I will have to inform my credit card providers and let them know I just passed my own bill to raise my credit limit on all my maxed out cards, and I will be sending in my own printed currency to pay my interest

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michael January 16 2014 at 11:28 PM

Apparently these clowns just don't get it, they refuse to understand that we as a nation cannot continue down this path. I get it and I hope that my fellow middle class Americans get it . Join me in the upcoming midterm election to vote against all incumbents-on all levels of government. All party loyalties, all ideologies must be put aside to regain control of our country. We cannot rehire the same people that caused this debacle.

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2 replies
ADAM ANTMAN michael January 16 2014 at 11:52 PM

This crash-and-burn-start-over-from-square-one is no solution. Many people have stated this same thing in other forums and I always ask, 'If you were running the show how would YOU bring about the changes you advocate?' No one has replied. So, I ask again, How would YOU bring about changes that would benefit the country? Specifically. What would be your approach to bringing about real,positive reforms to Government?

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1 reply
mwmaran ADAM ANTMAN January 17 2014 at 2:29 AM

there needs to be a cap on how much candidates can spend, not how much they can raise. This would attract better reps that don't have to cow tow to the corporations and the very rich. Then perhaps congress would start representing the interests of the whole nation instead of just the elite. Politicians need to stop running over "average joe" with the government steamroller. M W

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therondor michael January 17 2014 at 4:55 AM

what we can't continue doing is giving back hundreds of billions to huge company's that posted trillions in profit in the last 30 tears, while they moved our manufactories to china the mega companies have gotten far more in tax relief than the poor have in entitlements, while gutting the economy for the sake of larger profits. Traitors!!!

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Etheral January 17 2014 at 2:53 AM

Is it possible we are approaching an election.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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