House OKs $1 trillion compromise bill to fund federal government
By LISA MASCARO | Tribune Washington Bureau | Published: January 15, 2014
WASHINGTON — Partisan lawmakers feuding over the proper size of government reached a temporary truce Wednesday as the House easily approved a $1 trillion spending bill aimed at averting another federal shutdown.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) corralled his often-restless Republican majority into supporting the bipartisan accord, which is expected to be approved by the Senate this week.
The measure, approved 359-67, will fund almost every aspect of federal operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, through Sept. 30, giving troops a 1 percent pay raise and reversing steep reductions to some military and domestic programs.
As the debate was underway, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), the Appropriations Committee chairman who crafted the 1,500-plus-page bill with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), reminded his colleagues of what was at stake.
“Providing funding for our federal government is one of our chief duties as members of Congress,” Rogers said.
Passage in the House was not without opposition. Sixty-four Republicans and three Democrats voted against the bill. Conservatives vowed to continue pushing President Barack Obama to cut spending and stop Obamacare.
“The president is talking about income inequality in America, but there is no greater gap than between the politicians in Washington who spend with abandon and the American people,” said tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose strategy contributed to last year’s 16-day government shutdown. Cruz was among 14 Republican senators who voted against a stopgap measure Wednesday that was needed to keep the government running for a few more days until the broader bill clears Congress, which is expected by the end of the week.
The sweeping $1 trillion package reverses some of the steep sequestration cuts that began last year and were set to slice deeper into the federal government in 2014. Conservative lawmakers fought to keep those reductions but failed because of the December budget deal, reached by an unusual coalition of GOP defense hawks and Democrats who wanted to preserve assistance programs.
Defense spending was maintained at $520 billion to support 1.3 million active-duty personnel and 833,000 reservists. Money for the troops was increased, while funds for maintenance and equipment were reduced. A $25-million allocation was made to expand a victims counsel program to handle the rising number of military sexual assaults.
Nondefense programs received $491 billion for the year. Democratic priorities, including medical research, Head Start classrooms for preschoolers and weather forecasting got a boost over last year’s spending.
Democrats decried the lack of funding to provide long-term unemployment benefits for a growing number of jobless Americans whose aid has been cut off. Efforts to extend those benefits stalled amid a partisan Senate dispute over legislative procedures.
“This is not the bill that I would have written, but it is the result of a negotiation,” said Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “It’s incredibly disappointing the package doesn’t restore unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”