WASHINGTON D.C. —
The lowest-common-denominator bill doesn’t contain big-ticket wins for either side, but the simple fact that a deal came together was seen as a win for Congress as an institution and its band of 81 appropriators. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, strongly pushed for a deal, even though the end product was a six-inch-high “omnibus” compilation of what was supposed to be a dozen separate spending bills. Presidents and lawmakers alike deride such measures.
The alternatives, however, were to allow automatic spending cuts to strike for a second year and risk another politically debilitating government shutdown.
Democrats celebrated winning an addition $1 billion over last year for the Head Start early childhood education program and excluding from the bill a host of conservative policy “riders” advanced by the GOP.
“We were able to strip out nearly all the new, divisive riders relating to abortion, contraception, gun control, immigration, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, environmental protection,” said Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “This is very important to Democrats.”
Some Democrats said they would support it but only reluctantly, complaining that despite some increases, spending for education, health and other programs would still be too low.
“With this bill, we are waist deep in manure instead of neck deep in manure. Hooray, I guess,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said.
Republicans successfully “zeroed out” funding for high-speed rail, a slap at California Democrats, and they were able to keep tight limits on the implementation of “Obamacare” and the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial regulations.
Civilian federal workers would get their first pay hike in four years, even if it is just 1 percent. The bill contains a familiar provision backed by postal worker unions prohibiting the Postal Service from ending Saturday mail delivery and closing rural post offices even as it hemorrhages money.