The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $1 trillion government spending package on Thursday, December 11. The agreement will keep the government open into next year. With major opposition from House Democrats, the bill narrowly squeaked by on a 219-206 vote. The Senate passed a two-day funding bill after the House vote, dodging a government shutdown that would have started at midnight on the 12th.
House Democrats interrupted plans for a Thursday afternoon vote on the bill because of opposition to provisions entailing more relaxed regulations on Wall Street and with campaign finance laws. This opposition incited a rare case in which House Democrats became pitted against President Obama, who approved of the deal for its inclusion of several of his specific spending priorities. These priorities include more funds to fight Islamic State militants, help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and distribute more Pell Grants for college students.
The clash began on Tuesday when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) strongly opposed the bill’s weakening of a certain provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services law that was created to protect taxpayers from risks resulting from complex financial trades by large banks. Democrats were further dissatisfied with a provision that significantly increased the funding private donors can grant to political conventions. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted she was not made fully aware of the provision’s extent before the package’s initial unveiling.
After Democrats voted against advancing the bill on Thursday afternoon, House GOP leaders took the bill off the floor and the White House began trying to drudge up Democratic support for the package. President Obama and Vice President Biden began personally calling House Democrats in the final few hours before the dreaded government shutdown, encouraging them to view the bill more favorably. Meanwhile White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough went to Capitol Hill in an effort to change dubious Democrats’ minds, insisting that passing the deal would place more confidence into the economy. Democrats exiting the meeting claimed that McDonough had told them the federal government could not survive on constant short-term continuing resolutions.
Some Democrats supported the bill, arguing in favor of the fact that it does contain several democratic spending priorities. Notably, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is the second-highest-ranking House Democrat, openly supported the package. Some Republicans, on the other hand, opposed the bill on the grounds that it would not be able to succeed in reining in the President’s order. This internal opposition meant that Republicans needed Democratic votes in order to pass the deal.
Eventually many House Democrats decided to offer up their support for the legislation, enough to ultimately ensure that it successfully passed. 57 Democrats ended up crossing the divide to vote in favor of the bill along with 162 Republicans. The deal has arisen out of weeks of negotiations between Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), and their respective party leaders.
– Shenel Ozisik