House Narrowly Approves Massive Spending Bill, Averts Shutdown
After a day of drama, the chamber passed a $1 trillion bill to keep the government running and sent it to the Senate.
The House narrowly approved a massive spending bill Thursday night just before the government was set to run out of cash, as an unusual coalition of Republicans and Democrats teamed up to pass a measure that drew fierce criticism from both liberals and conservatives.
The $1 trillion spending measure passed 219-206, with 161 Republicans and 58 Democrats in favor. It now heads to the Senate for passage, though because the government was technically set to shutdown at midnight, the House then passed a 2-day continuing resolution by unanimous consent to give the other chamber a few days to act.
With President Obama joining all Republican leaders and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in support of the package, backers were able to overcome a concerted effort led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other key liberals – including Sen. Elizabeth Warren – who complained that the measure was larded-up with provisions to help Wall Street, among other special interests. Many on the right also balked at the bill, preferring to punt long-term spending decisions until next year when Republicans control the Senate.
House Republicans had narrowly cleared a major hurdle Thursday morning in their race for the exits, passing the rule governing debate for the "CROmnibus" bill by a razor-thin 214-212 margin. After recessing the House for several hours as they hunted for more support, GOP leaders finally called for a vote just after 9 p.m.
As members were being called back into the chamber to vote on the spending bill, it remained unclear whether there actually were enough votes to pass it.
Before concluding a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting before the vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was not telling her rank and file members to vote one way or the other.
"I'm giving you the leverage to do whatever you have to do. We have enough votes to show them never to do this again," she told them, according to a source in the room.
With the possibility still looming that the government would shut down at midnight, the White House stepped up its lobbying of members to support the omnibus bill and the Office of Management and Budget even held a conference call with federal agencies to discuss contingency planning.
"We continue to believe that time remains for Congress to pass full-year appropriations for FY 2015, and prevent a government shutdown," an OMB official said. "However, out of an abundance of caution, we are working with agencies and taking steps to prepare for all contingencies, including a potential lapse in funding."
Leaders of both parties huddled with their members in groups large and small Thursday afternoon and evening, trying to gauge support for the spending bill that is so big it has provisions disliked by everyone.
Rep. Chaka Fattah, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said the bill should be returned to its original form without campaign finance language boosting donation limits to political parties and the provision altering language in the Dodd-Frank financial services bill, though Republicans have vowed not to change the bill at that point.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough addressed House Democrats Thursday night and, Fattah said, made a "very strong pitch."
New York Rep. Steve Israel said McDonough made the case to House Democrats that the economy needs the consistency and the certainty of a one-year spending package.
While some Republicans have suggested 40 or 50 Democratic votes will be necessary to pass the measure, other lawmakers have floated higher estimates. "The Republicans are indicating they need 80 Democrats,"
"There are some people who really are not going to let Elizabeth Warren get to the left of them," said retiring Rep. Jim Moran, referring to the Massachusetts Democrat who has been especially critical of the bill.
One of the leaders of the opposition was Rep. Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. She was aided in her whip operation against the bill by more than two-dozen members.
The rule passed earlier Thursday only after two Republicans, Reps. Kerry Bentivolio and Marlin Stutzman, were persuaded by leaders to switch their votes from no to yes. Every Democrat voted against the rule,
Asked about the spending bill GOP leaders might bring up if the omnibus failed, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy avoided answering the question. "Why do Democrats want to shut down the government?" he asked.
Boehner was more dramatic later Thursday morning, telling reporters: "If we don't get finished today, we're going to be here until Christmas. You all know how this process works."
The White House gave the omnibus bill a key boost Thursday, announcing that the Obama administration supports its passage despite "the inclusion of ideological and special interest riders" as well as the decision to offer only short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security. That cover from Obama should make it easier for at least some congressional Democrats to back the measure. The White House has also been calling House Democrats about the bill, according to sources.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at Thursday's press briefing that if the bill reaches Obama's desk, "he will sign it."
Rachel Roubein and James Oliphant contributed to this article.