House $1.1 Trillion Plan Includes Deals on Banks, Trucks, Adjusters, Campaign Funds

By and Heidi Przybyla | December 12, 2014

The House passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill after a day of disarray and just hours before U.S. government funding was set to run out.

The vote last night was 219-206. With current government funding ending at midnight, the House then passed on a voice vote a two-day spending measure to give the Senate time to act.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Senate would clear a short-term funding bill and would begin debate on the long-term measure today.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and at least two Cabinet secretaries had called lawmakers to urge them to vote for the measure and head off a shutdown, said people familiar with the phone calls. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of opposed the measure in a rare disagreement with the White House.

“Keep the government open,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, before the vote. “It’s a good bill. Vote for it.”

Many Democrats opposed the bill because it includes a banking provision they call a giveaway to large institutions. A number of Republicans were against the measure because it puts off a confrontation over Obama’s immigration policy until 2015.

“They’re trying to undermine Dodd-Frank,” said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat. “We’re not going to vote for anything that’s going to give the store to the biggest banks in America.”

The vote was initially scheduled for about 2 p.m. Thursday and was delayed as Speaker John Boehner sought to round up Republican support.

House Democrats met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who “made a very strong pitch” for the bill, said Representative Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania.

Representative Steve Israel of New York said, “We ought to keep fighting on this.”

Increased Leverage

Pelosi, in a message to fellow Democrats earlier today, said Republicans’ inability to pass the bill on their own “increases our leverage to get two offensive provisions of the bill removed: the bank bailout and big money for campaigns provision.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Budget Director Shaun Donovan also called lawmakers to urge them to vote for the measure, said a Democratic official who sought anonymity.

“You have Pelosi and our usuals working together,” said Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican. “Then you have Reid and Obama and House Republicans working together. That’s very strange. I couldn’t have drawn out that battle plan for you.”

‘Until Christmas’

Boehner told reporters earlier, “If we don’t get finished today we’re going to be here until Christmas.”

The Office of Management and Budget, in a precautionary move, contacted federal agencies to prepare for a possible funding lapse, said an agency official who sought anonymity.

The campaign provision would permit a tenfold increase in donations that individuals can make to national political parties each year, to $324,000 from $32,400, according to a statement by Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. The group advocates for changes to campaign finance laws.

The banking language, insisted upon by Republicans, would ease rules enacted to protect taxpayers against bank losses after souring derivatives trades helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. The dispute over the banking rule is a preview of Republican plans to roll back other business regulations when they take control of both chambers in 2015.

JPMorgan, Citigroup

The banking provision would let JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and other lenders keep swaps trading in units with federal backstops.

“Citigroup is holding government funding hostage to ram through its government bailout provision. Join me in opposing the #CitigroupShutdown,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a message posted on Twitter.

Obama supports the spending measure though he opposes the banking and campaign-finance provisions, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. The bill would finance most of the government through September 2015.

Later, on MSNBC, Earnest had a direct message for Democrats in Congress: take the deal now because they won’t get a better one in three months, when Republicans will have an expanded majority in the House and control of the Senate.

“This is the kind of compromise that the president’s been seeking from Republicans,” Earnest said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a government shutdown.”

Banking Provision

Democrats showed their displeasure over the banking provision by voting earlier today against a procedural measure to set rules for debate on the spending bill. That passed 214-212, with 16 Republicans joining the Democrats in opposition.

Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said he opposes the measure because it gives bankers priority over initiatives such as the Pell Grant college-aid program.

“How can you justify eliminating hundreds of millions of dollars from the Pell Grant program and then give the bankers on Wall Street an avenue in which to enrich themselves?” Gutierrez said.

A deal on the spending bill was announced Dec. 9 after Senate Democratic negotiators accepted the banking rule changes and Republican demands on other policy provisions. Republicans oppose making changes to the measure.

Though Democrats aren’t pleased about the policy provisions, they said they beat back dozens of others that Republicans had sought, including revisions focused on environmental and labor protections.

Immigration Policy

The Department of Homeland Security, responsible for immigration policy, would be financed only through Feb. 27. Republicans want to use the agency’s spending bill to block Obama from easing deportation rules for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Last year, Republican efforts to defund Obama’s health care law led to a 16-day partial government shutdown.

In addition to the Dodd-Frank measure on swaps trading, the funding measure would allow exceptions to clean-water laws for agricultural refuse, and block the District of Columbia from spending money to legalize marijuana following a voter-approved measure allowing possession of as much as 2 ounces for personal use.

The plan would roll back safety rules on rest for truck drivers, ignoring the pleas of consumer activists and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Trucker Rules

The provision would temporarily suspend rules while a study is conducted about the number of trucks driven on congested roads. Under the change, truckers would be able to work as many as 82 hours a week.

The campaign-finance language would let donors give $97,200 a year to each of three party committees for conventions, to pay for building funds and to finance the expenses for recounts and legal challenges to election results, Wertheimer said in a statement.

The plan includes a proposal sought by the National Rifle Association that lets gun manufacturers use lead to produce ammunition, and a labor provision exempting claim adjusters from overtime requirements during major disasters.

The measure would seek to shore up the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. by allowing some underfunded multi-employer pension plans to reduce benefits. The provision reflects an agreement by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, and senior Democrat George Miller, a California Democrat.

The measure also includes an extension until Oct. 1, 2015, of a ban on taxing Internet access. It would provide $5.4 billion in emergency funds to respond to the Ebola outbreak.

The bill would require the Postal Service to continue delivering on Saturdays and to keep all post offices open.

–With assistance from Kathleen Miller, Derek Wallbank, James Rowley, Kathleen Hunter, Silla Brush, Jeff Plungis, Richard Rubin, Angela Greiling Keane, Clea Benson and Cheyenne Hopkins in Washington.

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