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House approves massive spending bill, D.C. budget

Updated 4:13 p.m.
By Ben Pershing
The House voted Thursday to approve a half-dozen spending bills grouped into one massive package, as the chamber races to complete its remaining work before adjourning for the year.

The $447 billion measure, which combines six separate appropriations bills, passed 221-202, with 28 Democrats joining all 174 Republicans present in voting against it. While the GOP complained that the bill was overinflated and rushed through with little scrutiny, Democrats praised it for funding key priorities.

"By focusing on our economy, workers, small businesses, and veterans, this legislation will put Americans back to work and help build long-term and broadly-shared prosperity," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

The package includes the bill providing federal funds for the District of Columbia. City leaders rejoiced this week after a House-Senate conference committee agreed to remove a handful of controversial, longstanding riders from the D.C. budget, including language that banned needle-exchange programs, medical marijuana use and local government-funded abortions. The bill also ends a ban on using federal funds "for domestic partnership registration and benefits."

Passage of the omnibus spending measure leaves only one more appropriations bill for the House to tackle -- the one funding the Pentagon. Leaders have deliberately held that bill back, as they discuss what other pieces of legislation can be tacked onto it when the chamber takes the bill up next week. The defense measure will serve as the vehicle for all or part of the job-creation package President Obama has requested, along with an increase in the federal debt limit and a handful of other must-pass measures.

The Senate's plans going forward are uncertain. The omnibus bill would take at least a few days to move through that chamber, which is currently preoccupied by the health-care debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture Thursday on the spending bill, a procedural move that would allow a vote to begin debate Saturday and a possible vote on final passage as early as Sunday. That time-frame could be altered to avoid a weekend vote if Senate Republicans agree not to object, but there has been no indication thus far that the minority plans to cooperate.

In addition to the financial services and general government bill, which contains the D.C. money, the omnibus measure on tap Thursday includes the Transportation-HUD bill; the Commerce-Justice-State bill; the Labor-HHS-Education bill; the military construction-Veterans Affairs bill; and the State-foreign operations bill.

Each of the half-dozen measures is bigger than the one from the year before, and Republicans complained that Democrats are spending recklessly given the growing federal budget deficit.

"There is no question that the era of big government has returned to Washington, D.C.," said Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the top Republican on the Appropriations panel. "I cannot and will not support this package of spending bills because it simply spends too much money and makes a mockery of our legislative process."

Other critics noted that the package includes more than 5,000 earmarks inserted by lawmakers, for a total of $3.9 billion.

The package includes key language sought by auto dealers, establishing an arbitration process where dealers slated for closure by the two manufacturers that received government bailouts -- General Motors and Chrysler -- can appeal the decision. The provision is popular with several lawmakers whose districts were hit hard by dealership closures.

The omnibus bill also includes some restrictions on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the continental United States, requiring the administration to submit a report to Congress before making any such transfers. But Democrats managed to block Republican efforts to include more restrictive language that would have completely barred the release or transfer of detainees.

The measure provides a combines $4.1 billion in aid to the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, though the total amount is $275 million less than the Obama administration requested. And the bill includes language that would allow Amtrak passengers to carry guns in their checked baggage.

By Ben Pershing  |  December 10, 2009; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  House , Purse Strings  
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Next: Pelosi plays down differences with Senate in health-care debate


So... basically they just made legal everything they have been doing under the table for years...

I cant wait until an American is voted into Congress and the White House again..

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | December 10, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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