While all House conferees and the four Senate Democratic conferees signed off on the conference report, none of the three Senate Republicans that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appointed to the committee did.
Nevertheless, the bill’s passage ends the months-long and often arduous negotiations that were almost derailed several times.
The main sticking point throughout was how to pay for the legislation.
Late in the negotiations, Republicans dropped their insistence that the $100 billion tax cut be offset, setting the stage for negotiators to reach an agreement on how to pay for the other portions.
The money is raised through a combination of telecommunications spectrum auctions, cuts to new federal workers’ pensions and a cut to Obama’s health care law.
Still, the cuts caused many Members to object to the legislation, with Democrats saying they go too far and Republicans believing they do not go far enough.
Hoyer unleashed a blistering floor speech against the legislation before the vote, noting that the cut to federal workers compelled him to vote “no.”
“This Congress is on the path to be the most anti-federal worker Congress that I have served in,” he said. “We talk here and we pass laws here, but none of that talk and none of those laws make a difference unless someone implements what we say.”
The fight that played out on the House floor leading up to the vote — on balancing deficit reduction with government spending to spur economic growth — was emblematic of the larger debate that has engulfed Washington since Republicans took over the majority in 2011.
Even Senate Democrats, in a closed-door caucus meeting Thursday, wrestled with approving a bill that would add $100 billion to the deficit. While Cardin and Mikulski gave impassioned speeches on behalf of federal workers, some of their colleagues were concerned about growing debt.
In fact, several Democratic Senators, including Mark Warner (Va.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), announced their opposition to the bill as early as Thursday.
“I would say the most important issue, and the one that is an overhang on everything else we debate here, is our inability to come to grips with our debt and deficit,” Warner said. “I know as we try to nurture this growing recovery, that one of the ways we take on that debt and deficit is by having a growing economy.”