House easily passes $1T omnibus spending bill with 359-67 vote

Anne Wernikoff and Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday easily approved a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that would fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2014 and let Congress avoid the risk of a shutdown until the end of September.

Members voted 359-67 to pass the bill, which was opposed by 64 Republicans and three Democrats.

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The three Democrats who voted “no” were Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Rush Holt (N.J.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.), a centrist Democrat who is retiring at the end of this Congress.

Some Republicans were known to oppose the bill, given their opposition to restoring some of the sequester cuts, as was agreed to as part of the budget deal struck late last year. The bill allows discretionary spending to increase by $45 billion compared to the sequester.

“True, it adheres to the budget passed in December, but that’s nothing to brag about,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said of the spending bill. “That budget destroyed the only meaningful constraint on federal spending that we had.”

McClintock and others were also upset at the rushed process that required the House to pass the bill after having just a few days to examine its 1,500 pages.

While most Democrats clearly preferred funding the government over risking a government shutdown, they also complained that the process needs to improve.

“This can be described very charitably as a mixed bag,” said Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.). “This is a 1,500-page bill that nobody has actually read.”

Yet the bill won even more support than the two-year budget deal it was based on. Ninety-four House members had voted against the budget deal.

Even conservative budget hawk Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who had signaled he would vote against any bill based on the new budget, voted “yes.”

“When I ran for office in 2010, I told people that I wanted to roll back spending in Washington to 2008 [pre-stimulus] levels,” he said. “I even put that on my flyers. Today, I had the chance to do what I told people I would do if they elected me.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he was surprised by the strong vote

“I’m almost giddy,” he said. “I think it’s a really good demonstration of trying to work across the aisle and across the dome.”

Rogers said the vote bodes well for completing all 12 appropriations bills on time this year — something that has not been done since 1994 — and for other bipartisan accords.

“I really think this is setting a tone that will last,” he said. The chairman then carried a list of those who opposed his bill back to his office. “I like to keep track of who is for what,” he said.

Rogers and others have been hopeful passing the 2014 bill will clear the decks and allow them to go back to regular order, as they consider funding bills for 2015. They also hope it will prevent repeats of October’s government shutdown.

“The December budget agreement and this bill sets us on a path to fulfilling our basic responsibility of the annual spending bills,” said Appropriations Committee ranking committee member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

The debate was left to Lowey and Rogers — top House leaders of both parties did not appear at all. GOP leaders recommended a “yes” vote, while Democratic leaders made no recommendation.

The White House backed the bill, which the Senate is expected to take up later this week.

The bill is the first fully detailed spending plan for the government since the 2012 omnibus passed in late 2011. The government has been running on a series of stopgap measures since then.

The legislation makes several policy compromises, and Rogers cited some Republicans could point to as victories.

“Throughout the bill, we’ve maintained pro-life policies and protected Second Amendment rights,” he said. “We’ve made sure that this bill provides no new funding for ObamaCare, and have even cut existing ObamaCare funds to the tune of over $1 billion.”

Rogers was referring to a $1 billion cut to a preventive healthcare fund under ObamaCare, which Republicans have called a “slush” fund.

The GOP can also point to language giving Wall Street regulators less money than they wanted to enforce the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and that spared readiness and major weapons systems from Pentagon cuts.

Democratic supporters touted large increases for social programs like Head Start and for medical research by the National Institutes of Health, as well as a 1-percent pay increase for blue-collar federal workers. Democrats were able to ensure ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law were not entirely defunded, and that most of 134 policy riders House Republicans sought were removed from the bill.

Elsewhere, the bill cuts the budget of the Internal Revenue Service, a GOP target after last year’s revelations the IRS made it harder for conservative groups to receive tax-exempt status.

Conservatives also pointed to a number of riders that were included in the bill, such as coal-industry items inserted by Rogers. One would allow the Export-Import Bank to finance coal projects abroad.

The bill pays $174,000 to the widow of former Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who died late last year. Despite some criticism, Congress continues to make these “death gratuity” payments to the families of members who die in office.

House passage means it’s up to the Senate to approve the bill by Saturday, when government funding expires. Passage is expected by Friday.

While some Senate Republicans will oppose it, Senate Appropriations panel ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Wednesday predicted the bill would pass the Senate easily.

 

“We had a caucus Monday night ... and I believe we will have a healthy number,” he said.