The 359-67 vote, reflecting strong bipartisan support in the
Republican-controlled chamber, sends the measure to the
Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate for approval by Saturday.
The Senate gave itself three more days to consider the measure by
approving an extension of current funding that was due to expire at
midnight on Wednesday.
The massive "omnibus" spending bill, which funds programs from
missile systems to Amtrak rail services, passed with strong
majorities of both House Republicans and Democrats. It boosts fiscal
2014 spending on military and domestic discretionary programs by $45
billion over levels that had been scheduled under automatic,
"sequester" spending cuts.
The measure fleshes out a budget deal passed in December that also
set spending levels for fiscal 2015, eliminating a key source of
congressional gridlock for the year ahead. Many lawmakers say this
will allow them to pass normal spending bills for the first time
since 2009, President Barack Obama's first year in office.
"This is a critical step in the direction of regular order,"
Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur of Ohio said of the spending
For the past four years, Congress has funded government agencies
through a series of stopgap spending bills and funding extensions,
with numerous threats of shutdowns and U.S. Treasury debt defaults
along the way.
The budget fights, fueled by demands for deficit reduction from the
Republicans who seized control of the House in 2010 elections,
reached a crescendo in October, when disputes over funding of
"Obamacare" health insurance reforms prompted a 16-day shutdown for
many agencies, idling thousands of federal workers.
approval ratings plummeting and midterm elections looming in
November, Congress has since shown little stomach for further
brinkmanship, allowing budget negotiators to craft bipartisan
[to top of second column]
But it is far from certain whether those compromises will continue.
By March or April, Congress will need to approve another federal
debt limit increase, a move that has recently been used by
Republicans as a pressure point for more spending cuts.
And lawmakers who did not get the cuts or funding increases they
wanted in the omnibus spending bill will be back almost immediately
to fight for their priorities as the fiscal 2015 appropriations
process gets under way.
Representative Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House
Appropriations Committee, said the process will give Democrats a
more time to "plus-up" some programs they believe are still
underfunded, such as the National Institutes of Health and the
Environmental Protection Agency.
"I'm going to try and adjust the bills to make sure we're addressing
the real needs out there," the New York lawmaker told Reuters in an
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers have said they would seek to
eliminate some programs they regard as ineffective in order to find
money to fund military priorities they regard as critical.
With non-war, discretionary funding largely unchanged between fiscal
2014 and fiscal 2015, making those changes will likely prove
(Reporting By David Lawder; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan
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