Congressional leaders worked overtime this week cajoling rank-and-file members
Washington - Arab Today
Lawmakers approved a compromise $1.1 trillion spending package Friday that funds the US government through next September, tightens the nation's visa requirements, ends a longstanding oil export ban and reforms the IMF.
The sprawling measure, which also extends several tax exemptions worth more than $620 billion and that critics warn will increase the national debt, easily passed the Senate 65 votes to 33 shortly after clearing the House earlier Friday as the last major acts of Congress before year-end holidays.
President Barack Obama swiftly signed the measure into law as he prepared to leave Washington for California, and then a family vacation in Hawaii.
Architects of the deal worked overtime this week cajoling rank-and-file members on both sides into backing the $1.149 trillion, catch-all bill which came in at more than 2,000 pages.
The president made calls to all four congressional leaders to thank them for their efforts. He offered special praise for House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been in the chamber's top job for all of two months.
"He has been professional. He has reached out to tell me what he can do and what he cannot do. I think it's a good working relationship," Obama told a year-end press conference.
While he described the package as a "good win," Obama acknowledged there are "some things in there that I don't like. But that's the nature of legislation and compromise, and I think the system worked."
Known as an "omnibus," the fiscal year 2016 spending bill includes priorities of both parties, and left out some pet projects that made it difficult for some lawmakers to sign on.
But ultimately, lawmakers came together to prevent a shutdown, Ryan said after his chamber's vote.
"Congress can now move into 2016 with a fresh start," he said.
The bill increases defense spending, which Republicans said was critical given the level of unrest in the Middle East and the increased specter of terrorism.
It also 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.
The bill reforms the US visa waiver program in the wake of deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, and intensifies US cyber security efforts.
And it approved long-stalled reforms of the International Monetary Fund that will give greater voice to emerging-market powers, while doubling the 188-nation crisis lender's permanent financial resources.
It does not, however, include a controversial measure temporarily halting the program that allows Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the United States.
And it notably left out any language aimed at defunding women's health care provider Planned Parenthood, which has been at the center of a year-long row over the group providing fetal tissue to research organizations.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate who was on the campaign trail and skipped the vote, criticized the bill from afar, saying Washington rammed the deal through "in secret."
"This is what a broken Washington looks like under President Obama and what Congress reverts to without conservative presidential leadership," he said.
White House hopefuls senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted against the package, while fellow Republican presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham supported it.
- Tax exemptions pass too -
The omnibus retained the decades-long ban on federal funding for research into gun violence, 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.
Congress also passed a sweeping package extending tax breaks and credits worth $629 billion aimed at providing greater certainty for businesses and millions of Americans.
The bill includes 56 extensions, among them nearly two dozen that would be made permanent in part to help families still struggling in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Several Democrats, including party leaders in the House, opposed the bill, warning it is not paid for and will only deepen US debt.
Their opposition puts them at odds with the White House, which on Wednesday announced its support for the tax bill as well as the spending bill.
Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, hailed it as "the biggest anti-poverty plan Congress has moved forward in decades," and said it will provide relief for 50 million Americans.