Senate passes $1.1 trillion spending bill

The Senate passed a huge end-of-the-year $1.1 trillion omnibus spending measure Sunday afternoon by a vote of 57-35.

The chamber was forced to work for the second consecutive weekend after talks broke down late Thursday to move the massive spending package and Republicans continued to filibuster it. Senate Democrats overcame the opposition Saturday when the Senate voted 60-34 to end debate and clear the way for a final vote.

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The bill, which includes $447 billion in appropriations for a number of cabinet departments and $650 billion for Medicare and Medicaid, combines six of the 12 annual spending bills Congress had been unable to pass separately because of Republican concerns that the measure is over-inflated and exceeds the cost of inflation in its government budget increases.

Republican fiscal hawks Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), as well as centrist Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), were among the Republicans who voted against it. Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.) voted against it while GOP Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) voted in favor of it.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele reacted to passage of the omnibus bill by calling on President Barack Obama to veto it.

“Poll after poll have made it clear that this kind of irresponsible and excessive spending is unacceptable, but Democrats simply aren’t getting the message," Steele said. "Now the American people are looking to President Obama to stand true to this campaign promises of fiscal responsibility and stage an economic intervention on his spend happy colleagues by vetoing this bill. I encourage President Obama to stand firm against the peer pressure and ‘just say no’ to Congressional Democrats.”

Right after the vote, the Senate was expected to return to legislation to overhaul the healthcare system, with the goal of wrapping up work before the Christmas-week recess. Chances for reaching that goal, however, dimmed last week when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) failed to reach agreement on a proposal to vote on four healthcare-related amendments at the end of the week.

The House voted Thursday to approve the half-dozen spending bills lumped into one package. That bill passed 221 to 202, with 28 Democrats joining all 174 Republicans present in opposing it. Republicans griped that the measure was too large and introduced late in the week to avoid public scrutiny, especially considering the nearly 5,000 earmarks worth $3.9 billion it contains.


The package includes the bill providing federal funding for D.C., the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill; the Commerce-Justice-State bill; the Labor-HHS-Education bill; the military construction-Veterans Affairs bill; and the State-foreign operations bill.

The only measure excluded was the bill funding the Pentagon. Leaders deliberately left it out so they could use it for a vehicle for other high-priority items the House would like to turn to this week. If Congress fails to pass the defense-spending bill by the end of the week when the current continuing resolution funding the government expires, it will have to pass an extension.

Democratic leaders will likely tack on all or part of the job-creation package Obama has requested, as well as an increase in the federal debt limit. Democrats also would like to pass a six-month extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits.