December 16th, 2009
06:25 PM ET
3 months ago

Flurry of last-minute action in the House

Washington (CNN) – With a holiday break looming in its sights, the House of Representatives Wednesday rushed to wrap up year end business, and postponed several major battles until next year.

With an overwhelming vote, 395-34, The House passed the spending bill for the Department of Defense. The $636 billion measure includes money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not include the additional costs expected for the 30,000 U.S. troops the Obama administration has announced it will send to Afghanistan next year. A separate request for those troops is expected to come up for a vote next spring.

Democrats also tacked on to the defense bill short-term extensions of several programs set to expire at the end of 2009, including a two-month extension of unemployment assistance and health care coverage for those who have lost their jobs. House Democrats wanted to include a six-month continuation of these items, but were forced to scale back because Senate Democratic leaders made it clear they would not be able pass a longer extension this year.

Because the defense bill is the last spending measure both chambers of Congress will vote on this year, Democratic leaders also attached several other short-term extensions for programs they were unable to tackle by year's end. In order to head off a major cut in payments to doctors, the bill keeps in place the current rates Medicare pays to physicians for two more months. The temporary "doc fix" punts the debate over how to pay for a permanent fix for these rates until next year.

The bill also extends some key provisions of the Patriot Act for two months.

The House also voted to raise the level of the nation's "debt ceiling" by $290 billion. This allows the Treasury Department to continuing borrowing money for the next two months. House Democratic leaders wanted to increase the level by as much as $1.9 trillion, to allow borrowing through the end of 2010 and allow lawmakers to avoid voting on the politically-charged issue of deficit spending during an election year. But Democratic leaders could not reach agreement with fiscal conservatives in the House and Senate who wanted to add to the debt limit bill tough measures to rein in spending, so leaders opted to pass a two-month bill.

Finally, the House is expected to vote Wednesday on a $154 billion jobs package. The bill taps $75 billion of bank bailout funds from the Treasury to pay for more infrastructure projects and assistance for cash-strapped states. About $48 billion of the so-called TARP funds would pay for highway construction projects, high speed rail, water projects, and school construction. Another $27 billion would go to state and local governments to cover salaries for police, fire fighters and teachers who could face lay offs next year.

The jobs bill also includes $79 billion in "emergency relief" that House Democrats argued did not need to be paid for because it focuses on economic recovery. The spending includes a six-month extension of unemployment insurance, health care subsidies for those who are out of work, some Medicaid money for states and an extension of the child care tax credit.

The Senate is not expected to take up a jobs package until next year.


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Rafael VA

    Kill the bill!!!

    December 16, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  2. Pelosi's a see-you-en-tea

    Let history's first-ever White House Kwanzaa begin!

    December 16, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  3. Reggie

    Obama has the lowest approval ratings of any president. Glad I didn't vote for him.

    December 16, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  4. benvictor

    Apparently another new poll is showing Obama below 50 percent; this is the first below 50 percent for this poll. A pollster remarked the democrats are flying red flags at high mast. This may explain why the House democrats are going home.

    December 16, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  5. phoenix86

    Pelosi and the dems rushing to spend every last dime they can before they go back home for the holidays.

    What a fraud.

    December 16, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  6. Rob

    It has never been clearer that the Legislative Branch of our government has become irrelevant. I could not possibly have more disdain for them. Now is the time for voters to demand a three or four party system. The two party system is broken, it's completely obsolete in America.

    December 16, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. m smith

    The repos wanted the surge so they should have no trouble voteing to pay for it right? Let's just override them all bunch of looneys. Palin is spouting off again . the repos are holding up votes just another wasted day with these people. Now they can all go home and make nice for Christmas like they care about people .

    December 16, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    How can we keep spending now that the debt limit has been reached, thanks in no small part to the recklessness of the previous 8 years.

    December 16, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. Keith in Austin

    With the exception of Defense spending, the blatant increases we'll incur in the national debt as a result of Pelosi and her band of crooks is an utter disgrace!

    Liberal left-wing ideology will not soon be forgotten when these charlotans are up for re-electin!

    December 16, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  10. Jo-Ann, uniondale, ny

    In reference to the Health Care Bill and any other thing that President Obama's administration tries to do is failed because I hate to say it but "certain people" do want reform but not on Obama's because they do not want the first African American President to be the first President in 50years to go down in history to pass health care reform!!!

    CNN please post...because it really shows where we are as a country!!!

    December 16, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  11. Todd

    The count down is on and NOV. cannot get here soon enough to throw these clowns out!

    December 16, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  12. Ash

    $636 Billion!! Why are we paying for some stupid wars in Iraq/Afghanistan while we are going bankrupt here in America? We import every small thing into this country, buying things from China, borrow money we do not have to pay Chinese, paying exorbitant amounts for Healthcare, export jobs overseas, bailing out Wall St; but we seem to doing precious little to save jobs in America.

    I am recent immigrant and I love America. But I see very little around that I think will improve quality of life for my kids... middleclass families such as mylef are finding it hard to

    December 16, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. Steve, NY

    The Democrats are a bunch of loosers. They never accept responsibilty, always pointing fingers at somebody else for their problems. yThe first 6 years of Bush's Administaration, we had prosperity, everybody had a job and everybody was happy. The last 2 years of Bush's administration the democrats took over Congress, everything went downhill after that.
    We need Bush back, Jeb Bush that is to straighten things out.

    December 16, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  14. Obama-Mama

    Don't forget Lizard Lieberman's walking papers....Matter of fact all the republicans out.

    December 16, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  15. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The only thing Republicans do in Washington is use the bathroom facilities, go to lunch and then come back and use the bathroom facilities again.

    December 16, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  16. Patricia E Cook

    Pharmaceutical Companies
    Yes, they have to be repaid for R&D, but what does it cost to provide
    lunch once a week or so to the offices of all the doctors on a pharmaceutical rep's route? I have been in on luncheons where they
    brought food for 30 staff of a doctor's office, and were lucky if the docs showed up to join in! But they made points with the docs for "being good to the staff." This is happening every day all over America. The medical office I worked in in Phoenix had 1 staff member who scheduled daily luncheons with the drug companies. She would just brazenly call the reps and say "what day can you bring us lunch!" I was astonished. She would also suggest a source for the food! I would really like to see this practice stopped.

    December 16, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  17. Keith in Austin

    Pleaaaze! Don't blame the GOP for the delays in passing this bill any longer! It has now morphed into a miserable piece of legislation that serves very few Americans. The Country is overwhelmingly opposed to it's present form, Liberals and Conervatives alike.

    The true motis operendi is based on Obozo's rabid and maniacle desire to pass something! This has become more about leaving a legacy (albeit bad) rather than benefitting the American People and it's passage will lead to the ultimate political demise to all that vote for it! This is an absolute certainty!

    December 16, 2009 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |