US House Passes Massive
Spending Bill to Avert Government Shutdown
December 17, 2011
U.S. House of Representatives has passed a massive $1 trillion dollar
spending bill to fund the federal government until next October,
averting a partial government shutdown just hours before current funding
was set to expire. The U.S. Senate is also expected to pass the spending
legislation later Friday or Saturday, and Senate leaders from both major
parties have assured Americans there will be no government shutdown.
After a roller-coast week of tension and partisan bickering between
Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives
passed a sweeping funding bill with solid bipartisan support - 296
lawmakers voted for it and 121 voted against it. Democratic Minority
Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland appealed to lawmakers to vote for the bill.
“And I therefore urge all my colleagues to support this bill," said
Hoyer. "Yes, it will keep government open, which is essential. But it
will also do the most fundamental job that this Congress has to do every
year, and that is to fund appropriately the priorities that this
Congress puts before the country.”
The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner,
said that both sides had worked together.
“This will mark for the second year in a row that we will spend less
money on the operation of our government - two consecutive years that we
can cut spending," said Boehner. "It also takes steps in this bill to
stop some of the excessive regulations that are harming our economy. And
for the first time in modern history, there are no earmarks [legislation
that requires funding on specific projects] in this bill.”
the Democratic-controlled Senate, Republican Minority leader Mitch
McConnell offered assurances that a government shutdown would be
“I think everybody should be reassured that’s not going to happen, the
conference report has been signed and we’re moving toward completing the
basic work of government through next September 30th very shortly," said
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the Obama
administration would extend the current government funding deadline for
24 hours if one chamber of Congress passes a spending bill and it is
presumed that the other chamber is also going to pass it.
A shutdown would have forced government agencies to halt non-essential
operations, and put tens of thousands federal employees on unpaid
furlough. This is the fourth time this year that Congress has come
within hours of either a potential government shutdown or a potential
default on its debts.
The spending bill will fund key domestic government agencies and the war
in Afghanistan. It imposes restrictions on U.S. foreign aid to Egypt,
Pakistan and the Palestinian authority, but avoids deep cuts in foreign
assistance that some Republicans had wanted.
Lawmakers still have not agreed on whether to extend unemployment
benefits and payroll tax cuts for American workers. The payroll tax
holiday was originally a temporary tax reduction and is set to expire at
the end of this month. President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to
extend the cuts, saying that otherwise 160 million Americans will face a
tax increase in the New Year, at a time when they can least afford it.
Members of the House of Representatives are expected to return to
Washington Monday or Tuesday, to try to work with the Senate to find a
compromise and pass the tax cuts and unemployment benefits - before
lawmakers leave town again for a planned holiday recess.