House OKs spending to avert US govt shutdown

2015-12-18 22:14
Speaker Paul Ryan strides to the House chamber as the House and Senate rush to send President Barack Obama a massive budget package. (J Scott Applewhite, AP)

Speaker Paul Ryan strides to the House chamber as the House and Senate rush to send President Barack Obama a massive budget package. (J Scott Applewhite, AP)

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Washington - The US House on Friday approved a $1.1 trillion spending package for 2016 which, if passed by the Senate as expected, would avert a government shutdown before year-end holidays.

The sprawling bipartisan compromise, which also tightens visa requirements, proposes reforms to the International Monetary Fund and lifts a longstanding ban on US crude oil exports, passed easily by a vote of 316 to 113.

The Senate was to vote later in the day, and the White House has said President Barack Obama would sign the measure into law.

Architects of the deal and congressional leaders worked overtime this week cajoling rank-and-file members on both sides into backing the huge legislation.

Known as an "omnibus", the $1.149 trillion fiscal year 2016 spending bill became a year-end catch-all that includes priorities of both parties, and leaves out some pet projects that made it difficult for some lawmakers to sign on.

But ultimately, "the House came together to ensure our government is open and working for the American people", Speaker Paul Ryan said after the vote.

The bill increases defence spending, which Republicans said was critical given the level of unrest in the Middle East and the increased spectre of terrorism.

"The legislation strengthens our military and protects Americans from terrorist threats, while limiting the overreach of intrusive government bureaucracies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency," Ryan said.

The omnibus lifts the 40-year-old ban on US crude oil exports, for years a Republican priority, while extending solar and wind energy tax credits that Democrats say will create renewable energy jobs and reduce carbon emissions.

It reforms the US visa waiver programme in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, but does not include a controversial measure that temporarily halts the programme allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the United States.

The omnibus retained the decades-long ban on federal funding for gun research, a major point of contention for Democrats. It also failed to provide assistance for debt-crippled Puerto Rico, which left top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi fuming although she ultimately backed the deal.

And it includes a two-year moratorium on the so-called medical device tax, a provision of Obama's health care law that angered Republicans and Democrats alike.

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