* Strong 72-26 vote comes just days after spending bill
* Spending provisions still coming to light in 1,582-page
* Boehner signals little appetite for fight over debt limit
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Jan 16 Washington's battles over
government funding ended with a whimper on Thursday as the U.S.
Senate approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill that quells for
nearly nine months the threat of another federal agency
The measure, which funds thousands of government programs
from the military to national parks through the Sept. 30 fiscal
year-end, passed on a strong, 72-26 bipartisan vote. President
Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law by Saturday.
The vote came exactly three months after the end of a 16-day
government shutdown in October that was waged over disputed
funding of "Obamacare," the president's signature health care
"We're a little late, but we have gotten the job done,"
Senate Appropriations Committee Barbara Mikulski said on the
The fiscal focus in Congress now turns to debate over
another boost in the $17 trillion federal debt limit. An
increase could be needed in as little as six weeks.
Republicans have not said what they will demand in return
for lifting the borrowing cap, but House Speaker John Boehner
signaled to reporters on Thursday that he has little desire for
a massive fight that threatens a damaging U.S. debt default.
The United States "shouldn't even get close to it," he told
reporters, calling for quick action on a bill to increase the
DEVIL IN DETAILS
The Senate accelerated its normal debate procedures to vote
on the spending bill more quickly, avoiding a delayed start to a
week-long holiday recess - even though most lawmakers had not
read much of the 1,582-page measure.
The massive spending bill was only introduced on Monday
evening, and it includes some controversial provisions that are
only just now coming to light.
A taxpayer advocacy group, Taxpayers for Common Sense,
described as "outrageous" a provision that would continue
uranium enrichment research by USEC Inc for some $62
million this year, despite the company's announcement in
December that it would file a pre-packaged bankruptcy
Boehner defended the provision for the company, which was
privatized in 1992 from former Department of Energy assets,
including a facility in his home state of Ohio.
"There's all different types of bankruptcy proceedings. It
is a uranium enrichment facility with new technology. There's
been a bipartisan effort to proceed with this research that
they're doing," Boehner said.
The swift consideration of the measure reflects a desire by
members of both parties in both the House and Senate to put the
fiscal battles behind them and ensure government funding during
an election year.
The measure eases some of the automatic, "sequester"
spending cuts by providing an additional $45 billion in funding,
split evenly between military and domestic programs.
But Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who launched an effort to
gut funding for Obama's signature healthcare law, remained
defiant, saying that Democrats were allowing Americans to suffer
from negative effects of the health insurance reforms.
Cruz, whose push to remove funding for the health law fueled
the government shutdown, tried again to stop funding for the law
but his amendment was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid, a Democrat.
"The Majority leader and Senate Democrats are not listening
to the American people," Cruz said. "Instead they have chosen a
course of conduct, doing nothing, that is not responsible."