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House Passes $1T Budget Bill, Avoids Shutdown

Friday, December 16, 2011

The House has passed a $1 trillion-plus catchall budget bill paying for day-to-day budgets of 10 Cabinet departments and averting a government shutdown.

The 296-121vote to approve the measure represented a rare moment of bipartisanship in a polarized Capitol. Lawmakers are also seeking compromise on separate legislation to renew jobless benefits and a cut in payroll taxes.

The vote sends the measure to the Senate, which was expected to pass it on Saturday.

The bill puts in place budget curbs mandated under an August pact between President Barack Obama and Congress. It trims spending for most domestic agencies and awards the Pentagon the smallest budget hike in recent memory. It pays for overseas military operations and a slew of programs ranging from border security to flood control to combating AIDS and famine in Africa.

Many provisions sought by House Republicans were dropped from the bill before its passage, and Democrats blocked a series of GOP assaults on Environmental Protection Agency regulations, though the agency's budget absorbed a cut of more than 3 percent.

GOP leaders did succeed in halting new rules requiring energy efficient light bulbs, delays in regulations of coal dust and eliminating federal funding of needle exchange programs.

War costs would be $115 billion, a $43 billion cut from the previous year.

The bill chips away at the Pentagon budget, foreign aid and environmental spending but boosts funding for veterans programs. The Securities and Exchange Commission, responsible for enforcing new regulations under last year's financial overhaul, won a 10 percent budget increase, even as the tax-collecting IRS absorbed a more than 3 percent cut to its budget.

Popular education initiatives for special-needs children and disadvantaged schools were basically frozen, and Obama's cherished "Race to the Top" initiative, which provides grants to better-performing schools, would absorb a more than 20 percent cut. The maximum Pell grant for low-income college students would remain at $5,550, but only after major cost-cutting moves that would limit the number of semesters the grants may be received and make income eligibility standards more strict.

 

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