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Spending bill heads to Obama, staves off shutdown

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 2:15 a.m. HST, Jan 17, 2014

WASHINGTON » Congress sent President Barack Obama a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill Thursday, easing the harshest effects of last year's automatic budget cuts after tea party critics chastened by October's partial shutdown mounted only a faint protest.

The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure, which cleared the House a little more than 24 hours earlier on a similarly lopsided vote. Obama's signature on the bill was expected in time to prevent any interruption in government funding Saturday at midnight.

The huge bill funds every agency of government, pairing increases for NASA and Army Corps of Engineers construction projects with cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and foreign aid. It pays for implementation of Obama's health care law; a fight over implementing Obama­care sparked tea party Republicans to partially shut down the government for 16 days in October.

Also included is funding for tighter regulations on financial markets, but at levels lower than the president wanted.

The appropriations bill includes more than $744 million that will go directly to Hawaii priorities, and more than $1 billion for defense programs benefiting Hawaii, with $392 million for military construction in the state, according to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. The bill includes:

» $250 million for Hono­lulu's rail project in fiscal 2014.

» $16.7 million in funding for the East-West Center in Manoa.

» A total of $89.4 million for Native Hawaiian housing, health care and education programs.

» About $165 million for Hawaii's highways.

The compromise-laden legislation reflects the realities of divided power in Washington and a desire by both Demo­crats and Republicans for an election-year respite after three years of budget wars that had Congress and the White House lurching from crisis to crisis. Both parties looked upon the measure as a way to ease automatic spending cuts that both the Pentagon and domestic agencies had to begin absorbing last year.

All 53 Democrats, two independents and 17 Republicans voted for the bill. The 26 votes against it were all cast by Republicans.

Obama's budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, called the bill's passage a positive step for the nation and the economy.

Shortly before the final vote, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, attacked Senate Demo­crats, accusing them of ignoring the problems caused by the health care law.

Unlike last fall, when he spoke for 21 straight hours and helped force the government shutdown over defunding Obama­care, this time he clocked in at 17 minutes and simply asked the Senate to unanimously approve an amendment to strip out Obama­care funding. Demo­crats repelled the maneuver.


Andrew Taylor, Associated Press

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