US narrowly passes $1.1-trillion spending Bill, averts shutdown

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Washington | Updated: December 13, 2014 12:14:37 AM

The legislation now heads to the Senate, which is expected to pass it soon

A $1.1 trillion spending package that would fund most government operations for the fiscal year was narrowly passed by the US Congress on Thursday after a rancorous debate that reflected the new power held by Republicans and the disarray among Democrats in the aftermath of the midterm elections.

The accord was reached just hours before the midnight deadline, in a 219-206 vote, amid the last-minute brinkmanship and bickering that has come to mark one of Congress’s most polarized — and least productive — eras. The legislation now heads to the Senate, which is expected to pass it in the coming days.

The split in the Democratic Party dramatically burst into view when Representative Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader and one of President Obama’s most loyal supporters, broke with the administration over a provision in the bill that would roll back regulation of the Dodd-Frank Act, which Ms. Pelosi said was a giveaway to big banks whose practices helped fuel the Great Recession. She spoke on the House floor in the early afternoon, expressing her strong opposition to the bill.

Mr Obama and Vice President Joseph R Biden Jr were pressed to make a furious round of phone calls to try to persuade wavering Democrats, while House Speaker John A Boehner worked to get more Republican votes.

The public support of the sweeping spending bill by the White House — which came just as Ms. Pelosi was making her speech on the House floor opposing it — was a rare public break with the minority leader and infuriated many of her loyalists.

In a more than three-hour, closed-door meeting of House Democrats on Thursday night, many of the party’s more liberal members tried to rally support against the bill. The moment, they said, was one of conscience, and a chance for Democrats to demonstrate their allegiance with the middle class.

“We’ve got to stand up for principle at some point, or they’re going to kick us even more next year when they have a bigger majority,” said Representative Peter A DeFazio, Democrat. House Democrats found their calculation complicated by the White House, which released a pre-emptive signal that Mr. Obama would sign the bipartisan legislation if it made it out of Congress.

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