US lawmakers reach deal on $1.1-T spending bill

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WASHINGTON D.C.: US congressional negotiators finalized a huge spending bill late on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) that funds most federal operations through next September, concluding weeks of haggling to avoid a looming government shutdown.

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The $1.1-trillion measure, which includes money for anti-jihadist operations including training for moderate rebels in Syria, was agreed to with little time to spare before funding runs out at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday (Friday in Manila).

“This bill will allow us to fulfill our constitutional duty to responsibly fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown,” Republican House Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers said after the marathon haggling concluded.

The measure combines an omnibus package funding nearly all of government through the end of fiscal year 2015.

But it sets up a showdown next February over President Barack Obama’s immigration policy.

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would limp along for two months under a continuing resolution, a form of punishment against Obama for his unilateral action to shield millions from deportation.

DHS will implement most of the executive order on immigration, and Republicans want to revisit its funding levels when Congress meets next year under full Republican control.

The bill contains $1.014 trillion in discretionary domestic spending, plus $64 billion in military overseas contingency operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

It provides for counterterrorism cooperation with countries like Yemen, Libya and Somalia, funds $5 billion for operations to counter the Islamic State extremist group, including $1.6 billion to train Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, and re-authorizes a Pentagon program for up to $500 million to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition members.

It also provides $5.4 billion in emergency funding to respond to the Ebola crisis – slightly less than the $6 billion requested by Obama.

It earmarks $175 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense shield, part of a $347 million request by Israel for missile defense programs.

Leadership aides acknowledged the House will have to pass a short-term funding extension to keep the lights on beyond the shutdown deadline, as the Senate might need an extra day or two to debate and vote on the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said lawmakers should seek to avoid the “cliffhanger fights” that have come to mark several recent spending measures.

“There’s no reason the government should shut down,” Reid said on Tuesday. “And we’re ready to pass a year-long spending bill to take care of this,” he added.

But in a sign of tension over the 1,603-page bill at the conclusion of one of the most partisan congressional sessions in memory, House Democratic leaders hinted there could still be drama over one of the final votes of the year.

“Until we review the final language, we cannot make a determination about whether House Democrats can support this legislation, but I am hopeful,” Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

AFP

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