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Old 12-13-2009, 02:00 PM
Franc Tireur Franc Tireur is offline
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Senate Passes Federal Spending Bill

By Carl Hulse

The Senate on Sunday sent President Obama a $446.8 billion measure funding much of the federal government, leaving Congress free to try to sort out a remaining tangle of year-end business.

Senators voted 57 to 35 to give final approval to the legislation that combined six separate spending bills and will keep federal agencies operating through Sept. 30.

Republicans continued to attack the level of spending, but Democrats said that the measure provided need support for programs such as those serving veterans. The measures were due last October but partisan maneuvering and the press of other business kept Congress from completing the bills on time.

The action disposed of one major bit of the daunting Congressional workload. But plenty remains to hold the attention of lawmakers in the days ahead, not the least of which is the Senate debate over health care.

That fight was expected to resume following Sunday’s afternoon’s vote on the omnibus spending bill, with Senate Democratic leaders trying to craft a route to a final vote on the health care overhaul before Christmas.

At the same time, members of the House and Senate were trying to wrap up a number of other issues and negotiations were taking place around the Capitol.

The remaining items include an increase in the national debt limit, a jobs measure being drafted by House Democratic leaders, an extension of unemployment and health benefits for out-of-work Americans, the renewal of a handful of other expiring programs and an extension of the federal estate tax.

The vote for the huge spending bill, which actually totals more than $1 trillion when required spending for social programs is added in, left one spending bill remaining – a $600 billion Pentagon measure that Democrats hope to use to carry along some of the more contentious remaining items.

The House is supposed to complete its business for 2009 by the end of this week, but with the Senate still tied up with health care, the adjournment schedule remains uncertain. Sunday’s Senate session was the second Sunday in a row that lawmakers convened and marked the 13th consecutive day in session for the chamber.


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