Shawn Thew / EPA

House approves $1.1 trillion spending bill

Compromise measure passes in a 219-206 vote, heads for Democratic-run Senate

Barack Obama's administration and House Republicans joined forces Thursday to pass a $1.1 trillion U.S. governmentwide spending bill over clamorous protests from Democrats objecting that it would roll back bank regulations imposed in the wake of the economic near meltdown of 2008.

The House approved the measure late Thursday, 219-206, and for all the maneuvering throughout the day, there was no real threat of a government shutdown. Shortly after the vote, the House passed a 48-hour extension of funding to keep government offices open while the Senate considers the broader measure.  

The compromise bill would keep most agencies funded through next September but would fund the Department of Homeland Security only through February to give Republicans a chance early next year to try to stop the implementation of Obama's immigration reforms, which would largely carried out by the department.

In a rare public rebuke of Obama, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she was "enormously disappointed" that he decided to embrace the bill, which she described as an attempt at legislative blackmail by House Republicans.

The White House noted its own objections to the bank-related proposal in a written statement. But officials said that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both called Democrats in an attempt to secure enough votes for passage of the broader measure, which combined government spending and a new course for selected, highly shaky pension plans.

Earlier in the day, conservatives sought to sink the measure because it would leave Obama's immigration policy unchallenged. But Speaker John Boehner patrolled the noisy, crowded House floor looking for enough Republican converts to keep it afloat.

He found them — after the vote went into overtime — in retiring Rep. Kerry Bentivolio and Rep. Marlin Stutzman. The vote to allow the measure to advance was 214-212.

Two items are particularly toxic to Democrats, neither of which was disclosed until late in this week's negotiations on the bill. One would weaken the regulation of risky financial instruments and another would allow rich people to flood political parties with more cash.

A provision aimed at shoring up financially weak multiemployer pension plans drew  fire from AARP and some union allies of Democrats over a major change in labor law that would permit plans to cut the pensions of current retirees.

Many Democrats focused more on the bad than the good since the 1,603-page bill was released late Tuesday. A large cohort of Republicans praised it for cutting spending for the IRS and the Environmental Protection Agency.

But Democrats had victories too, and the alternative is to boot the unfinished spending bills into next year, when Republicans will retake control of the Senate and bolster their numbers in the House. Republicans were cautiously confident that they would get the Democratic votes they need to pass the bill.

"This may be a hold-your-nose vote," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. "Do you really think next year, with Republicans entirely in control, that it would actually get better?"

The underlying measure authorizes the federal government's discretionary spending through Sept. 30, 2015. It's the biggest remaining item on the agenda of the lame-duck Congress, with legislators hoping to adjourn by week's end.

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