US passes spending bill to avert shutdown

Barack Obama fought to get bill passed. Picture: AP

Barack Obama fought to get bill passed. Picture: AP

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THE US House of Representatives has avoided a damaging government shutdown by narrowly passing a $1.1 trillion (£63 billion) spending bill.

The legislation was passed despite strenuous Democratic objections to controversial financial provisions.

The vote followed a long day of drama and discord on Capitol Hill that highlighted fraying Democratic unity and featured an uneasy alliance between president Barack Obama and speaker John Boehner, enemies in past budget battles.

A vote on the measure was delayed for hours after Democrats revolted against provisions to roll back part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and allow more large financial political donations, while conservative Republicans objected because the measure did not block funds for Mr Obama’s immigration order.

Democrats said Republican leaders, flexing their new political muscle after big wins in the midterm elections that will give them control of both chambers of Congress next year, had gone too far in trying to roll back Dodd-Frank legislation.

“We have enough votes to show them never to do this again,” Democratic house leader Nancy Pelosi told members of her party, behind closed doors, according to a source.

Some Democrats also demanded the removal of a provision that allows a big increase in individual contributions to national political parties for federal elections, potentially up to $777,600 a year.

The debate pitted Mr Obama against Ms Pelosi, one of his most loyal allies in Congress, as the president waged a last-ditch campaign to persuade Democrats to set aside their objections, arguing that if it failed, the party would get a worse deal next year under Republican ­control.

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The effort to save the bill angered some Democrats, who complained that both Mr Obama and JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon were calling on Democrats to support it.

“It is very strange, very strange that the two of them would be working for the support of this bill,” said representative Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services ­Committee.

In the 219-206 vote, 67 Republicans rejected the spending bill. That was offset by 57 Democrats who voted in favour.

Shortly after passage, both the House and Senate passed a 48-hour extension to allow the Senate more time to consider the measure.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said it would be debated again.

The 1,603-page bill, negotiated by Republican and Democratic appropriators and leaders, drew Democrats’ ire when they discovered it would roll back the Dodd-Frank law due to go into effect next year by stopping planned restrictions on derivatives trading by large banks.

If passed by the Senate, the spending bill would fund all government agencies until September, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which would get an extension only through to 27 February.

Republicans intend to deny funding to the agency to carry out Mr Obama’s order allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the US.

The measure keeps domestic spending largely flat, while providing billions of dollars to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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