GOP denied spending bill filibustering bid
WASHINGTON: The Democratic-controlled Senate yesterday cleared away a Republican filibuster of a huge end-of-year spending bill that rewards most federal agencies with generousbudget boosts.
The $1.1 trillion measure combines much of the year’s unfinished budget work — only a $626 billion Pentagon spending measure would remain — into a 1,000-plus-page spending bill that would give the Education Department, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and others increases far exceeding inflation.
The 60-34 vote met the minimum threshold to end the gallant old party (GOP) filibuster. A final vote was set for this afternoon to send the measure to President Barack Obama.
Democrats held the vote open for an hour to accommodate Independent Senator
Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox Jew who
walked more than three miles to the Capitol to vote on the Sabbath after attending services at his synagogue in the city’s Georgetown neighbourhood. Lieberman wore a black wool overcoat and brilliant orange scarf — as well as a wide grin — as he provided the crucial 60th vote.
The measure combines $447 billion in operating budgets with about $650 billion in mandatory payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
It wraps together six individual spending bills and also contains more than 5,000 back-home projects sought by lawmakers in both parties.
The measure provides spending increases averaging about 10 percent to programs under immediate control
of Congress, blending increases for veterans’ programs, NASA and the FBI with a pay raise for federal workers and help for car dealers.
It bundles six of the 12
annual spending bills, capping a dysfunctional appropriations process for budget
year that began on October 1, dysfunctional appropriations process in which House
leaders blocked Republicans from debating key issues and Senate Republicans dragged out debates.
Just the $626 billion defense bill would remain. That’s being held back to serve as a vehicle to advance must-pass legislation such as a plan to allow the government’s debt to swell by nearly $2 trillion.
The government’s total
debt has nearly doubled in the past seven years and is expected to exceed the current financial ceiling of $12.1 trillion before January 1.
Republicans said the measure — on top of February’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill and a generous omnibus measure for the 2009 budget year — spends too much money in a time when the government is running astronomical deficits.