GOVERNMENT FUNDING: Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Bill
(CNN) — The Senate on Thursday easily passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September and sent it to President Barack Obama, a notable departure from chronic, partisan-fueled budget battles in recent years that included the government shutdown last October.
The decisive vote, 72-to-26, concluded congressional action that for the first time since 2012 determined federal spending agency by agency instead of through temporary stopgap measures that spotlighted the divisiveness in Washington.
Seventeen Republicans joined 55 Democrats in supporting the legislation.
The House approved the budget measure on Wednesday in another strong bipartisan vote, 359-to-67.
“With very few exceptions we’ve heard nothing but positive comments from my colleagues here in the Senate,” Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said on the Senate floor as the vote neared.
Democrats were just as eager to brag about the budget as an example of a Congress that can indeed function.
“These efforts show that we Democrats and Republicans can work together for the good of the country,” said one of the people most responsible for the bill, Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat. “We can avoid drama … fiscal cliffs and shutdowns.”
The sweeping bill hits nearly every corner of government. It includes a 1 percent pay increase for troops and a 1 percent cost-of-living boost for federal workers.
Obama is expected to sign the measure.
Inn recent years, must-pass funding bills have been flashpoints for epic battles over health care, the deficit and social policies from contraception to abortion.
As a result, Congress punted most key spending decisions by extending past funding bills, allowing sweeping spending cuts to take effect and failing to decide what agencies needed funding increasing and what ones needed cuts.
But following the government shutdown in October,
Republican and Democratic leaders took a different approach following last October’s government shutdown, tempering partisan rhetoric in public and discussing compromise in private.
Both sides made tradeoffs in the end.
Democrats won — and Republicans conceded — on continued funding for Obamacare as well as large spending increases for Head Start and mental health programs.
Republicans gained — and Democrats lost — on continued budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and the IRS.
* Disabled veterans and some veteran’s families will be protected from a pension cut slated for younger military retirees.
* Funding will increase and budget cuts will be reversed for: the FBI, mental health programs, the Army Corps of Engineers, cybersecurity programs, the Social Security Administration, Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.
* Budget-cut levels will continue for: Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Education, Department of Labor, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
* The bill freezes a program to phase-out inefficient incandescent lightbulbs. Though manufactures have told CNN they make stop making the bills regardless.
* Secretary of State John Kerry must certify that Libya is working to find those behind the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in 2012 before before any funding can go to Tripoli.
* The bill bans any spending on official portraits and freezes many top government salaries, including the Vice President’s.
While the bill passed with bipartisan support in both chambers, not everyone was cheering.
“I cannot support a funding bill that violates the only real progress we have made in getting our fiscal house in order over the past several years,” Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker wrote in a statement following his “no” vote.
Corker and others questioned the bill’s use of long-term savings to increase spending over the next nine months.
Another source of anger: the relatively quick timeline from the unveiling of the bill late Monday to final passage Thursday.
“We were given but a day to review this 1,582 page document … this reflects its own shortcomings,” wrote South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford.
Steve Ellis, vice president of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, said it was “staggering” that the bill flew “through the Capitol like a greased pig.”