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House approves $1.1 trillion spending measure

Andrew Taylor | The Associated Press via YellowBrix

December 11, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats are muscling through a deficit-swelling spending bill, giving domestic programs their third major boost this year and awarding lawmakers with more than 5,000 home-state projects.

The House voted 221-202 Thursday to pass the 1,088-page, $1.1 trillion measure _ combining $447 billion in operating budgets with about $650 billion in payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The Senate immediately voted to begin debate, with a final vote likely this weekend.

No House Republicans voted for the bill. Some 28 Democrats, chiefly moderates and abortion opponents, opposed it.

The measure provides spending increases averaging about 10 percent to programs under immediate control of Congress. It comes on top of an infusion of cash to domestic agencies in February’s economic stimulus bill and a $410 billion measure in March that also bestowed budget increases well above inflation.

Also Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., confirmed that the House will vote to raise the cap on government borrowing, currently set at $12.1 trillion. The hike in the debt ceiling is likely to exceed $1.5 trillion so that another politically excruciating vote to raise the limit won’t be needed next year.

The deficit for the 2009 budget year registered $1.4 trillion and a comparable deficit is expected for 2010 _ and that’s before Congress spends up to $100 billion to renew extended jobless payments and health insurance subsidies for the unemployed and passes legislation intended to create jobs.

“When are we going to say, ‘Enough is enough?’” asked House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio. “Let’s stop the madness.”

In fact, the gravy train may slow next year, assuming President Barack Obama follows through on his promise to bring unsustainable trillion-dollar-plus deficits under control. His budget director has ordered agencies to brace for a spending freeze as part of a midterm election-year push to rein in record budget shortfalls.

The spending bill blends increases for veterans’ programs, NASA and the FBI with a pay raise for federal workers and help for car dealers. It bundles together six of the 12 annual spending bills, capping a dysfunctional appropriations process in which House leaders blocked Republicans from debating key issues and Senate Republicans dragged out debates.

Just the $626 billion defense bill would remain. That’s being held back to serve as a vehicle to advance must-pass legislation such as the debt increase.

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