Omnibus Spending Bill Sails Through Senate; Headed for Obama's Signature

Carolyn Kaster/AP

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the 12-part omnibus spending bill 72-26 on Thursday, which will fund the government through the end of September. The $1.1 trillion package sailed through the Senate and heads next to President Obama's desk for his signature.

The bill, crafted by Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and her House counterpart Harold Rogers, R-Ky., allocates $1.012 trillion in discretionary funding to various departments and agencies, while also providing overseas contingency funding. Significantly, the bill prevents another government shutdown, slated for midnight on Saturday.

The omnibus faced criticism from outside conservative groups for failing to further reduce federal spending and for a rushed process. Congress passed the bill on Thursday night, fewer than 72 hours after the 1,582-page legislation was initially released to members.

But within the halls of Congress, complaints about the bill were scarce and often minor. Following last October's fiscal crisis, the appetite for another federal shutdown was meager, and arguments over major policy items that could have derailed the omnibus--including over the Affordable Care Act and abortion--were left for another day.

It also provides a partial fix for the controversial cuts to military pensions that were included in the December budget agreement. The omnibus eliminates those cuts for both disabled veterans and for recipients of survivor's benefits.

Now that the bill has passed both chambers, affected departments and agencies can begin the work of subtracting from their new spending figures the amount of funds that they have already used up since the fiscal year began last October. The omnibus affects funding for everything from federal food safety inspections to NASA to modernizing Navy ships.

The Defense Department faces the most difficult task, having lost billions of dollars in fiscal 2014 from its 2013 allocation, though the omnibus does provide more cash for the department than it would have had under sequestration.

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