Senate sends $1.1 trillion spending bill to Obama
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer Jim Abrams, Associated Press Writer 9 mins ago
WASHINGTON – The Senate on Sunday passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government, including health, education, law enforcement and veterans’ programs.
The more-than-1,000-page package, one of the last essential chores of Congress this year, passed 57-35 and now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The weekend action underlined the legislative crush faced by Congress as it tries to wind up the year. After the vote, the Senate immediately returned to the debate on health care legislation that has consumed its time and energy for weeks. Senate Democrats hope to reach a consensus in the coming days on Obama’s chief domestic priority.
The spending bill combines six of the 12 annual appropriation bills for the 2010 budget year that began Oct. 1. Obama has signed into law five others.
The final one, a $626 billion defense bill, will be used as the base bill for another catch-all package of measures that Congress must deal with in the coming days. Those include action to raise the $12.1 trillion debt ceiling and proposals to stimulate the job market.
The spending bill passed Sunday includes $447 billion for departments’ operating budgets and about $650 billion in mandatory payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs under immediate control of Congress would see increases of about 10 percent.
The FBI gets $7.9 billion, a $680 million increase over 2009; the Veterans Health Administration budget goes from $41 billion to $45.1 billion; and the National Institutes of Health receives $31 billion, a $692 million increase.
All but three Democrats voted for the bill, while all but three Republicans opposed it. Democrats said the spending was critical to meet the needs of a recession-battered economy. “Every bill that is passed, every project that is funded and every job that is created helps America take another step forward on the road of economic recovery,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.
Republicans decried what they called out-of control spending and pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion in the bill for more than 5,000 local projects sought by individual lawmakers from both parties.
The Citizens Against Government Waste said those projects included construction of a county farmer’s market in Kentucky, renovation of a historic theater in New York and restoration of a mill in Rhode Island.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime critic of such projects, said it was “shameful” that so many had found their way into the legislation. Most Americans, he said, were watching football and not the Senate debate, adding, “If they knew what we are about to pass ….”
The legislation also contains numerous items not directly related to spending. It provides help for auto dealers facing closure, ends a ban on funding by the District of Columbia government for abortions and allows the district to permit medical marijuana, lets Amtrak passengers carry unloaded handguns in their checked baggage and permits detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to be transferred to the United States to stand trial, but not to be released.
The bill also approves a 2 percent pay increase for federal workers.
With the Senate concentrating on health care, attention on the upcoming jobs plan shifts to the House.
The defense bill that will be the basis for the package normally enjoys wide bipartisan support, but Republicans, and some fiscally conservative Democrats, are unhappy with the prospect of another jolt of deficit-swelling spending.
Congress must soon raise the debt ceiling, now at $12.1 trillion, so the Treasury can continue to borrow, and Democratic leaders are eyeing a new figure close to $14 trillion, pushing the issue past next November’s election.
But a bipartisan group in the Senate says a higher ceiling should be tied to creation of a task force on deficit reduction, and House Democratic moderates say their votes could depend on winning a “pay-as-you-go” law requiring that new tax cuts or spending programs don’t add to the deficit.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on CNN’s “State of the Union,” favored a deficit task force. He said he didn’t “see how this process where everybody kind of lards on is going to actually ever come to an end unless we finally have the discipline to do a straight up-or-down vote across the board on revenues and spending cuts.”
Proposals to put people back to work include tax breaks for new company hires, small business tax breaks, public works spending and federal aid to states.
Congress is also likely to extend measures, included in the $787 billion stimulus act last February, that provide jobless payments and health insurance subsidies for the unemployed.
Now, if I remember right, I have heard Obama say several times that we cannot sustain this kind of spending. Several in the Senate and the House have said the same thing. So, tell me. Why oh Why are they spending money like drunken sailors at a party where the object is to get as drunk as you can and throw up?
To me, this is grounds for removal from office! We have watched while the government under Obama has spent more money than any of us would think possible before Obama took office. And now they want to add another 1.1 trillion on top of the huge bill that they are handing to the American people?
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was right when he said it was “shameful” that so many (talking of local projects) had found their way into the legislation. Most Americans, he said, were watching football and not the Senate debate, adding, “If they knew what we are about to pass ….” I say we would know if they didn’t try so hard to hide it from us, and we are so NOT INTERESTED!
When are we going to wake up and smell the burning of our lives as Washington wastes more and more of our money, and demand that they stop this insane spending??? I am sick and tired of footing their bills. We should make those jokers pay them for a while. I just wish that it was constitutionally possible. Cause if it was, that would stop this insane spending really quick. Mark my words.
God Bless a Bankrupt America and her troops
God Bless my readers, my listeners on BTR and my viewers on You Tube….