WASHINGTON – The House voted Thursday to approve half a dozen spending bills contained in one large package, as the chamber races to complete its work before adjourning for the year.
The $447 billion measure, which combines six appropriations bills, passed 221 to 202, with 28 Democrats – including Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho – joining all 174 Republicans present in opposing it. GOP lawmakers said the measure was overinflated and rushed through with little scrutiny, while Democrats said it would fund key priorities.
“By focusing on our economy, workers, small businesses and veterans, this legislation will put Americans back to work and help build long-term and broadly shared prosperity,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Passage of the omnibus spending measure leaves only one more appropriations bill for the House to tackle – the one funding the Pentagon. Leaders have deliberately held back that measure, as they discuss what other legislation can be tacked onto it when the chamber takes up the bill next week. The defense measure will serve as the vehicle for all or part of the job-creation package President Barack Obama has requested, along with an increase in the federal debt limit.
The Senate’s plans for the omnibus bill are uncertain. The measure would take at least a few days to move through that chamber, which is preoccupied by the health-care debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed cloture Thursday on the spending bill, a procedural move that would allow a vote to begin debate Saturday and a possible vote on final passage as soon as Sunday.
In addition to the financial services and general government bill, the omnibus measure on tap Thursday includes the Transportation-HUD bill; the Commerce-Justice-State bill; the Labor-HHS-Education bill; the military construction-Veterans Affairs bill; and the State-foreign operations bill.
Each of the half-dozen measures is bigger than the one from the year before, and Republicans complained that Democrats are spending recklessly, given the growing federal budget deficit.