Omnibus Clears House

Posted February 25, 2009 at 5:03pm

In a near-party-line vote, the House on Wednesday approved a $410 billion omnibus spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year, with Republican leaders urging President Barack Obama to veto the bill.

House Members voted 245-178 for the package, which includes significant increases in spending on a range of domestic programs, including education, health care and energy.

It came under fire from Republican leaders for including more than 8,000 earmarks totaling nearly $8 billion. But Democrats noted that 40 percent of those earmarks were for GOP projects and said that, otherwise, bureaucrats would decide how to spend the money.

“Railing against earmarks may be a popular partisan crusade here in Washington — but I challenge any Member of this House to go to his or her district and ask the people there if the issue of earmarks is more important than a good-paying job, more important than quality schools, more important than safe communities,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.

The vote was somewhat more bipartisan than for the $787 billion stimulus package that passed two weeks ago: 16 Republicans voted in favor of the omnibus, including a number of vulnerable and moderate Members, while 20 Democrats, including a number of fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, voted no.

Republican leaders urged a freeze in spending instead.

The vote also showed a continued breakdown in the typically bipartisan Appropriations Committee, with ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) strongly opposing the bill. Lewis said that when the stimulus package is added in, domestic spending will rise by 80 percent this year.

“An 80 percent spending increase in government programs in a single year is unnecessary, irresponsible, unaffordable and unsustainable,” he said.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, also prevents a cost-of-living increase for Members of Congress.