House easily approves $1.1T funding bill, 316-113

The House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a $1.1 trillion spending package that includes the first major change approved by Congress to ObamaCare and keeps the government open through September 2016.

Lawmakers backed the package following a furious effort by Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanHouse to vote on NRA-backed gun measure Congress fails on promises to restore regular order and stop funding by crisis The only common ground between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan is an "R" MORE (R-Wis.), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and their leadership teams to corral votes in both parties.

In the end, there was no drama in the 316-113 vote. 

Ryan won 150 GOP votes, a majority of his conference that represents a big victory for the new Speaker. Ninety-five Republicans voted against the measure.

Only 18 Democrats voted against the spending bill, while 166 supported it. 

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The Senate is expected to pass the package later today, likely after pairing it with a massive tax package approved by the House on Thursday. The White House has said President Obama will sign both measures.

Ahead of the vote, conservatives were expressing disappointment with the package, which was largely put in place by former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who agreed to the top-line number in a deal with Democrats and the White House before ending his Speakership.

Only 79 House Republicans voted for that budget in October, which severely limited the GOP’s leverage in the omnibus negotiations.

Republicans weren’t able to secure tighter restrictions on Syrian refugees entering the country, or language to block funds for Planned Parenthood. Amendments offered by conservatives in a House Rules Committee hearing this week were rejected. 

To win over GOP votes, Ryan added language to the bill lifting the decades-old ban on U.S. oil exports.

Many Republicans appeared to want to use the vote to register their confidence for Ryan, who has enjoyed a pronounced honeymoon as Speaker. 

The vote was closed shortly after the 150th Republican "yes" vote was cast. 

That did not seem coincidental, given a letter sent to the GOP whip team after the Thanksgiving holiday by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-S.C.). 

The whip set a marker of 150 GOP votes for the spending bill in the letter, which criticized Republican lawmakers who vote against a bill but secretly hope it passes.

 “The vote that hurts our Conference is the no vote from a Member who hopes the bill passes, but relies on others to carry that load,” Scalise wrote. “That vote isn’t fair to the Members who shoulder the responsibility of voting yes, and it isn’t fair to the Republican Conference as a whole.

“While we always strive to reach 218 with Republican votes, sometimes that is not possible with divided government, and the story of a bill that passed with 150 Republican votes is much more positive and assertive than the story of a bill that passes with 79 Republican votes,” Scalise wrote. “My point is simple: if there are 150 Republicans who hope the bill passes, then there should be 150 Republicans who vote yes on final passage."

After the vote, Scalise touted the majority support from Republicans as a moment of unity after his warning letter.
 
“I think you saw a lot of members recognizing that there’s strength in numbers and that we embolden Speaker Ryan in those negotiations if we back him up with the votes,” Scalise told reporters outside the House chamber.
 
On Thursday, Pelosi cast some doubt on how many Democrats would back the measure.
 
Liberal Democrats were upset by the oil provision, though Pelosi and her leadership team noted that their party won the extension of several renewable energy tax credits in exchange for ending the ban on oil exports.

In an early Friday morning memo to House Democrats, Pelosi ticked off a variety of GOP riders Democrats prevented, including attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and overturn environmental regulations.

“Republicans’ desperate thirst for lifting the oil export ban empowered Democrats to win significant concessions throughout the Omnibus, including ridding the bill of scores of deeply destructive poison pill riders,” Pelosi wrote in a Thursday night letter to House Democrats urging them to support the bill. 

Another provision that might have won Democratic votes dealt with ObamaCare.

The legislation calls for suspending for two years ObamaCare’s “Cadillac” tax on high-cost insurance plans. Many Democrats wanted that provision, because unions would like the tax to be repealed. Ahead of an election year in which labor’s ground support will be crucial to Democratic races around the country, it is a significant win for the party.

The change came despite the Obama administration’s support for the tax, which is intended to keep healthcare costs down. The White House indicated Obama would not veto the overall package over the tax issue.

The omnibus package also includes a renewal of 9/11 first responder health benefits, known as the James Zadroga Act, a measure the former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart lobbied for in Congress. 

One key disappointment for Democrats was the absence of help for Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), a senior appropriator who was born in Puerto Rico, called it a “glaring omission.”

“We found a way to give away billions and billions of dollars to big oil companies, as it relates to lifting the prohibition on the export of crude oil, but we couldn’t find a way to help the hardworking people of Puerto Rico,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

“Shame on us here in the United States Congress,” Jeffries added.

In an attempt to assuage concerns, Ryan has directed House committees of jurisdiction to come up with a plan to help resolve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis by the end of March.

Democrats backing the package said the alternative was worse.

“Get a grip, people. If we go back to continuing resolutions, it’s going to get ugly in a hurry,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

—This story was updated at 10:10 a.m.