WASHINGTON – Congress approved a $1 trillion spending bill last week, striking a bipartisan deal that ensures the federal government will remain open through September.
By wide margins, the House and Senate approved the 1,524-page spending agreement that had been hammered out behind closed doors by leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees over the last month.
Proponents said that the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate produced a bill – that while not ideal for anyone – was better than operating from one short-term extension to another.
"In today’s era of shutdown, slowdown, slam-down politics, where negotiating occurs on cable TV rather than in committee rooms, we worked together," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., called it a solid piece of legislation that continues a four-year trend of spending reductions totaling $165 billion in savings.
"This is the fourth straight year that we have cut discretionary spending. That has not happened since the Korean War," he said.
The legislation came to the House and Senate floor as the most recent temporary funding agreement was set to expire. The 2014 fiscal year began last October with no spending bill in place – leading to a shutdown of some federal services for 16 days.
Opposition to the bill came largely from fiscal conservatives associated with the Tea Party. Some favored deeper spending cuts as well as a defunding of the Affordable Care Act.
"I can’t support a bill that spends trillions of taxpayer dollars with no way to offer amendments," said Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.
A handful of Democrats objected to the bill saying it cut too deeply.
"This bill is the continuation of a pessimistic vision of our country, one with a drastically shrunken government, a shredded safety net, and a diminished ability to seize the opportunities and to address the challenges that lie before us," said Rep. Rush Holt, R-N.J.
The Senate approved the bill, 72-26. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted for it.
The House approved the bill, 359-67. Reps. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, voted for it. Reps. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, opposed it.
House wants more reporting from Obamacare marketplace
The House last week approved a bill that would expand reporting requirements related to health care exchanges.
Republican proponents said the bill is needed to force the Obama administration to provide data about the use of health care exchanges that may not reflect favorably on the president’s signature legislation.
"The President’s health care law will cost the taxpayers an estimated $2 trillion over the next decade. At the very least, the administration should provide the American people regular and ongoing information about its implementation," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.
Democrats in opposition claimed the bill was unneeded and simply another in a long line of attacks aimed at gutting the Affordable Care Act.
"This is just an attempt to pile so many requirements on the administration that they are taking away from the true job of enrolling people in the law," said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
The House voted 259-154 in favor of the bill. Cotton, Crawford, Griffin, Womack, Bridenstine, Cole, Lankford, Lucas and Mullin voted for it.