Senate sends big spending bill to Bush for signature
WASHINGTON - Automakers gained $25 billion in taxpayer-subsidized loans and oil companies won elimination of a longstanding ban on drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as the Senate passed a sprawling spending bill yesterday.
The 78-to-12 vote sent the $634 billion measure to President Bush, who was expected to sign it even though it spends more and contains more pet projects than he would have liked.
The measure is needed to keep the government operating beyond the current budget year, which ends Tuesday. As a result, the legislation is one of the few bills this election year that simply must pass. Bush's signature would mean Congress could avoid a lame-duck session after the Nov. 4 election.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the bill "stands as a reminder of the failure of the Democratic Congress to fund the government in regular order."
However, he said, it "puts the United States one step closer to ending our dependence on foreign sources of energy" by lifting the offshore drilling ban and opening up huge reserves of oil shale in the West.
The Pentagon is in line for a record budget. In addition to $70 billion approved this summer for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense Department would receive $488 billion, a 6 percent increase. The spending bill also offers aid to victims of flooding in the Midwest and recent hurricanes across the Gulf Coast.
Such a huge bill usually would dominate the end-of-session agenda on Capitol Hill. But it went below the radar screen because attention focused on the congressional bailout of Wall Street.
The measure settles dozens of battles that have brewed for months between the Democrats who run Congress and the White House and its GOP allies.