Appropriations Bill Overcomes Congressional Hurdles

Lawmakers hope passage of appropriations bill ushers in new era of cooperation in Congress.

"We are a little late, but we have gotten the job done," Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said of the federal spending bill.

"We are a little late, but we have gotten the job done," Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said of the federal spending bill.

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It appears the days of government shutdowns and fiscal brinkmanship could be coming to a close in Congress, at least for now.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill that will keep the federal government funded until October 2014.

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The Senate voted 72 to 26 to pass the measure.

The "omnibus" bill includes 12 funding bills and funnels money to every federal agency from the Department of Agriculture to the Pentagon.

"We are a little late, but we have gotten the job done," says Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. "We need an opportunity ladder in this country and we have it in this bill."

The legislation seeks to reduce the military disability backlog as well as restore the full pension payments to military pensions, which had been cut back in the budget bill that passed Congress in December.

On the domestic side, the appropriations bill increases funding to Head Start and the National Institute of Health, which happens to be in Mikulski's backyard of Maryland.

The legislation also includes policy riders like a ban to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo Bay back to the U.S. as well as another that gives President Barack Obama the discretion to send Egypt, which is still in the midst of a military coup, $1.5 billion in aid relief.

In order to get Republicans to sign onto the bill, cuts were made to nearly every federal agency's budget. The bill cuts family planning funding by $10 million and bans the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. The budget to bolster border security, however, was increased.

The legislation already passed the GOP-controlled House of Representatives Wednesday with overwhelming support leaving the chamber erupting with applause.

[HOME: Senate Reaches Deal on Appropriations Bills]

The bill marks a major shift in the way Washington does business. While the bill came late, it is the first time the country has managed to pass an appropriations bill since 2011. Republicans and Democrats alike hoped that it would interrupt Washington's bad habit of lurching from one budget crisis to another.

Republican and Democratic staffers worked tirelessly in the weeks between Christmas and New Years to ensure the legislation was ready in time to stave off a government shutdown in January.

"Behind me there is a whole lot of we," Mikulski said on the Senate floor minutes before the vote.

The 1,500 page bill drew the ire of some lawmakers, however, who lamented they had little time to look over the contents of the legislation before they voted on it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., admonished the appropriators for sticking in a rider that blocks the U.S. Department of Defense from taking over the country's drone program, which is currently operated by the CIA.

"The Appropriations Committee has no business making these decisions," McCain said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took the floor with multiple posters and advocated that the legislation should have cut the budget for the Affordable Care Act far more drastically than it did.

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