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Senate sends $1.1 trillion spending bill to Obama

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Sunday passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government, including health, education, law enforcement and veterans' programs.

The more-than-1,000-page package, one of the last essential chores of Congress this year, passed 57-35 and goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Florida Republican Sen. George LeMieux voted no; Democrat Bill Nelson voted yes.

The spending bill combines six of the 12 annual appropriation bills for the 2010 budget year that began Oct. 1. Obama has signed into law five others.

The final one, a $626 billion defense bill, will be used as the base bill for another catch-all package of measures that Congress must deal with in the coming days. Those include action to raise the $12.1 trillion debt ceiling and proposals to stimulate the job market.

The spending bill passed Sunday includes $447 billion for departments' operating budgets and about $650 billion in mandatory payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs under immediate control of Congress would see increases of about 10 percent.

The FBI gets $7.9 billion, a $680 million increase over 2009; the Veterans Health Administration budget goes from $41 billion to $45.1 billion; and the National Institutes of Health receives $31 billion, a $692 million increase.

All but three Democrats voted for the bill, while all but three Republicans opposed it. Democrats said the spending was critical to meet the needs of a recession-battered economy. "Every bill that is passed, every project that is funded and every job that is created helps America take another step forward on the road of economic recovery," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.

Republicans decried what they called out-of control spending and pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion in the bill for more than 5,000 local projects sought by individual lawmakers from both parties.

The Citizens Against Government Waste said those projects included construction of a county farmer's market in Kentucky and renovation of a historic theater in New York.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime critic of such projects, said it was "shameful" that so many had found their way into the legislation. Most Americans, he said, were watching football and not the Senate debate, adding, "If they knew what we are about to pass."

• $519 billion in routine payments for Medicare and Medicaid.

• $3.9 billion for more than 5,000 "earmarks," or home-state projects sought by lawmakers.

• A pay raise for federal employees averaging 2 percent.

• Establishes an appeals process for automobile dealers closed by General Motors and Chrysler.

• Permits the District of Columbia government to provide abortions with locally raised revenue, permits needle exchange programs in the city and allows implementation of a medical marijuana referendum.

• Eases restrictions on federal funding of needle exchange programs nationwide to combat the spread of disease by drug users.

• Allows Amtrak passengers to transport firearms in checked luggage.

• $68.2 billion for the Education Department.

• $109.6 billion for veterans programs, a 15 percent increase, including $45.1 billion for health care.

• $7.3 billion for the 2010 census.

• $18.7 billion for NASA, a 5 percent increase.

• $7.9 billion for the FBI, a 7 percent increase.

• $3.7 billion for grants to state and local law enforcement.

• $5.1 billion for heating subsidies for the poor, almost 40 percent more than requested.

• $41 billion for highway construction, a slight increase.

• $1.6 billion to subsidize Amtrak.

Senate sends $1.1 trillion spending bill to Obama 12/13/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:13pm]

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