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POLITICS: PennAve

Congress passes $1 trillion spending deal

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Congress approved a $1.012 trillion spending package to keep the federal government funded though September, an anti-climactic ending to months of bitter partisan wrangling over the budget that led to a 16-day government shutdown last year.

The Senate easily passed the "omnibus" spending bill Thursday night by a vote of 72-26 after the House overwhelmingly approved it a day earlier.

Seventeen Republican senators joined all 53 Democrats and two Democratic-leaning independents to support the measure.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill — the final piece of a spending compromise brokered in December by the heads of the House and Senate budget committees: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

"I’m pleased that Congress has come together to fill in the details of the framework Chairman Ryan and I agreed on in December and fund the government in a way that invests in families and communities across the country," Murray said.

"Moving forward I hope we will build on this bipartisan work rather than returning to the economic hostage-taking and artificial crises we saw far too much of last year."

The bill will reverse $63 billion in domestic and defense "sequestration" cuts that were mandated to kick in this month as part of a 2011 budget deal.

Lawmakers in both parties praised the measure, which capped defense spending at $520.5 billion and domestic spending at $491.7 billion. The bill includes $92 billion for overseeing military operations, including the war in Afghanistan.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., called the spending agreement an "important first step toward Congress reclaiming its spending authority."

"For too long, we have ceded our power of the purse, allowing President Obama to set spending priorities," Boozman said. “While this represents a bipartisan, bicameral compromise, it still contained a number of spending decisions and policy provisions that reflect Arkansas values and help our state."

As an example, Boozman said the measure allocates additional money to help secure the borders and combat illegal immigration.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the ease in which the measure passed is "a signal that the budgeting process in Congress is finally getting back to normal."

But fellow Sen. Deb Fischer, R- Neb., voted against the compromise because she said it doesn't significantly cut wasteful spending.

"While sequestration is not a wise way to cut government spending, we can’t afford to return to business as usual," she said.

And Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he opposed the measure because it "spends too much and is full of the same tired gimmicks we’ve seen over the years."

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, opposed the bill for other reasons, saying it makes too many cuts to national security-related programs. He added that the measure fails to fully restore the military retirement benefits "recklessly" cut in last year’s budget deal.

"It’s time Congress remembers its constitutional responsibility to provide for the nation’s common defense rather than use it as a piggy bank to fuel its out-of-control domestic spending," he said.

The 1,500-page spending bill passed the House 359-67, with almost all opposition coming from conservative Republicans opposed to bill's higher spending levels and its reversal of across-the-board budget cuts required under the sequester.

Chief Congressional Correspondent Susan Ferrechio contributed to this article.

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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner