Congress Averts Government Shutdown With Trillion-Dollar Spending Bill

Congress averted a government shutdown Friday by agreeing to a $915 billion spending package to keep key federal agencies operating through the end of the 2012 fiscal year.

The measure passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 296 to 121, with 149 Democrats joining 147 Republicans to support the bill. Voting against the package were 86 Republicans and 35 Democrats.

The Senate late Friday passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded for another 24 hours, and is expected to pass the full funding bill during a rare Saturday session.

House Speaker John Boehner (R.–Ohio) said the agreement would remove barriers to job and economic growth and cuts discretionary spending for the second year in a row.

“This bipartisan, bicameral agreement reflects our year-long focus on the American people’s top priority: jobs. Recognizing the danger our spending-driven debt poses to long-term economic growth, this bill cuts discretionary spending for the second year in a row – a first in modern history – and eliminates several excessive government regulations that threaten job creators,” Boehner said.

The package completes funding for certain agencies Congress failed to complete this year, including money for the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, State, Health and Human Services, Labor and Interior.

Key highlights include:

•    $8.4 billion for EPA, a $223 million cut over last year

•    $518 billion for the Pentagon, an increase of $5 billion over last year

•    $850 million for counterinsurgency aid in Pakistan

•    $5 billion for AIDS

•    $32 billion for energy and water programs

•    $21 billion for agencies that regulate banking

•    $12 billion for Treasury, a cut of $882 million over last year

•    $71 billion for Education, a $153 million cut over last year

•    $42 billion for the State Dept. and Foreign Operations

•    $3 billion for Israel

•    $39 billion for Homeland Security that includes nearly $12 billion for Customs and Border Patrol and nearly $6 billion for Immigration and Custom Enforcement.

“It is impossible to erase decades of irresponsibility in one year, but I am proud to say the conversation on Capitol Hill has finally changed,” said Rep. Allen West (R.–Fla.).

Some Republicans who voted for the bill, which prevented the shutdown at midnight Friday, said they approved of the $6 billion in cuts over last year but that they would have liked to have seen an even leaner budget.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R.-Ariz.) called the bill a “crap sandwich.”

“You definitely do not want to bite into it, you cannot stand the taste, but you know you have to eat it,” Gosar said.

“I hoped that this bill would include far more cuts, greater reforms, and more regulatory relief. I’m disappointed that it does not. Let me be the first to admit, this legislation is far from perfect. It does, however, inch us forward towards our ultimate goal of restoring fiscal sanity,” Gosar said.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R.–Ariz.) voted against the 1,200-page bill saying the spending levels were too high.

“We’ll be discovering for months to come what’s actually in it,” Flake said. “This is unacceptable. We promised to do better.” 

Rep. Bobby Schilling (R.–Ill.) said he was unable to support the bill because there was not enough time to thoroughly review what was in the measure.

“I have voted throughout the course of the year this year on measures to avoid a government shutdown,” Schilling said. “Though this bill contains items I do support, combining nine spending bills together with little time to review represents business as usual in Washington and I cannot be a part of that.”

Rep. Joe Walsh (R.–Ill) called the bill more of Washington’s “reckless, out-of-control spending.”

“This ‘megabus’ is an attempt by Speaker Boehner to work with a president and Senate that is unwilling to budge on wasteful spending and financial irresponsibility. While I applaud Speaker Boehner for his leadership, this bill is not enough. I came to Washington to change the way this town does business and to get our fiscal house in order.  We need major spending cuts, a balanced budget, and robust job creation to get our economy back on track,” Walsh said.

The measure also contained language that addressed a number of controversial issues, for example, it bans the District of Columbia from using taxpayer dollars for abortion, and it delays a ban on the sale of incandescent light bulbs for another year.

“This is an early Christmas present for all Americans,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R.-Texas). “It restores the freedom, at least temporarily, for you to choose the light bulbs you want to illuminate your home.”

The spending bill also blocks the Federal Trade Commission from moving forward with new guidelines on food that can be marketed to children, an issue first reported by HUMAN EVENTS after food manufacturers complained they would have to rewrite the recipes for hundreds of products in order to comply.