The House voted in bipartisan fashion today to approve a massive spending package to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, passing the measure by a vote of 359-67 and likely taking the prospect of another government shutdown off the table until at least this fall.
Just three House Democrats opposed the vote on the omnibus; 64 Republicans voted against it.
The bill, known around Washington as an omnibus, is a compilation of 12 appropriations bills allowing lawmakers to weigh and prioritize each program individually. It funds federal agencies at a rate of $1.012 trillion, a mark that was negotiated as part of the budget deal reached last December.
Since then, appropriators worked through the winter holiday break to finalize an agreement before funding ran out. Sensing a deal was imminent, Congress approved a three-day continuing resolution this week to afford the Senate and president a little more time to pass and sign the bill into law.
"This legislation is one of our highest priorities as Members of Congress and it is critical to our ongoing economic stability and the safety and well-being of the American people," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., wrote in a statement after the vote. "It is a good bill and the bipartisan product of careful negotiations between the House and the Senate. It provides every facet of the federal government with adequate, responsible funding, while continuing to reduce federal spending - totaling $165 billion in cuts since fiscal year 2010.
The package contains no earmarks, although several provisions were included to specify funding for certain federal programs. For example, the vice president and other political appointees received a pay freeze, the use of taxpayer money for official portraits of federal officials was banned, and U.S. troops were awarded a one percent pay increase.
"This bill makes key investments that will bolster job creation and economic growth," Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said during debate on the bill. "This is not the bill that I would have written, but it is the result of the negotiation that required significant compromise and protected the appropriations process from political warfare."
Of the 64 Republicans voting in opposition, several issued statements explaining their position.
"Plain and simple, this bill increases spending," Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, wrote in a statement explaining why he voted against it. "It is time to get serious about our spending problem. I will continue to push for fiscal sanity and make sure Washington is responsible with your money."
"That was a step in the wrong direction," Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., stated. "The debt is a problem we must face. Making promises of future spending cuts in exchange for immediate spending increases now is not a solution."
The bill now heads to the Senate, where it's expected to face a vote before lawmakers leave Washington for another recess next week. Funding for the government runs out Saturday, Jan. 18.