The House passed a $1.1 trillion, 1,500 page spending bill Wednesday that sets spending levels for the next year, the beginning of a return to a normal budgeting process that has eluded Congress for the last several years. A total of 357 lawmakers voted yes, with 64 Republicans and three Democrats voting no.
The bill takes the broad outlines of a budget deal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., at the end of 2013 and fills in the smaller details. The agreement provides $63 billion in sequester relief and $85 billion in total savings over the next two years, resulting in about $23 billion in deficit reduction.
Passing the bill to flesh out the budget deal is the last step in averting another government shutdown after funding from a short-term spending bill ran out today. In order to allow themselves time to debate and vote on the appropriations measures, both the House and Senate passed short, three-day bills to buy a few extra days. They have until Saturday night to finish off the larger bill.
The appropriations heads in the House and Senate, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., worked together to put together the measure, which allows neither party to score any overt political points. Defense and domestic spending that would have been slashed by another round of mandatory budget cuts under the sequester are largely averted. Democrats may have a slight edge, having secured most of the necessary funds to implement the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation and prevented Republicans from blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. But there is also fresh spending for abstinence education programs, a nearly $80 billion cut in daily agency operations, and reduced funding for the National Institutes of Health.
One provision that will please both parties exempts disabled veterans and war widows from a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments for military pensions that was part of the original deal.
As they did with the budget deal, some outside conservative groups had urged members to vote "no" on the measure because it undoes some of the sequester cuts and therefore increases spending.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill by Friday before leaving for a week long recess.