Senate appropriator says he has the votes to pass catch-all spending bill

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he believes he has the 60 votes needed to pass a 12-bill omnibus package for fiscal year 2011 spending.

He adds that he may have more than 60 votes.

The Senate is expected to begin consideration this week of a yearlong continuing resolution that the House passed last week. Inouye needs 60 votes, which means some Republicans, to overcome any likely GOP procedural hurdles to replace the House bill with the Senate omnibus.

The package caps discretionary spending at $1.108 trillion, the level that Republicans demanded this year, Inouye noted: "We have abided by them to the very penny."

The omnibus includes a raft of earmarks, but they are expected to add up to less than 1 percent of the bill's total. By comparison, the House bill would cap discretionary spending at $1.089 trillion, the same as fiscal 2010, and include no earmarks.

After an election heavy with anti-spending rhetoric, Republicans in the House and Senate earlier this year vowed to refrain from requesting earmarks in the next Congress. The move put pressure on congressional Democrats to back away from earmarks, previously a prevalent bipartisan practice.

Inouye said, however, that the earmarks were not a problem in winning support for his package.

If the Senate passes the omnibus, it would then go to the House where Democrats hope to pass the measure before Saturday, when a stopgap funding measure expires.

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