House easily okays $1.4 trillion spending deal with legislative extras

Moving to avoid a Friday government shutdown deadline, the House on Tuesday approved two bills which packaged up a dozen spending measures to fund the operations of the federal government, as lawmakers in both parties eagerly embraced a plan which included a series of extras which critics said resembled presents under a legislative Christmas tree.

"Plain and simple, this package is good for America," said Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, as both parties found ways to spend extra money approved in a budget deal between Congress and the President struck earlier this year.

Some of the highlights included:

+ The plan raises the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 years,

+ One measure ends the Medical Device Tax and the Cadillac Tax from the Obama health law,

+ Funding is set aside to allow for a study of the health consequences of gun violence,

+ Federal workers would get a 3.1 percent pay raise.

While President Trump had said in the past that he would veto a giant 'omnibus' funding bill, the White House signaled that he would support this effort, which simply split up the 12 funding bills into two parts - one with 8 bills, one with the other four.

One bill combined eight different funding measures: Labor-Health and Human Services-Education; Agriculture; Energy and Water Development; Interior-Environment; Legislative Branch; Military Construction-Veterans Affairs; State-Foreign Operations; and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.

The second bill contained four funding measures for Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services and General Government, and Homeland Security.

A handful of Republicans grumbled about the process, as the details were just dumped on lawmakers Monday night.

The packages still approval in the Senate, where the same type of vote was expected, with some opposition.

"We need to look at how this bill has been loaded up," Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) complained on the Senate floor, bemoaning the non-spending items stuffed into the bill, like a repeal of three major health taxes, a provision to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to age 21, and a number of other items.

Paul also voiced contempt for the bottom line of the spending package.

"We just keep borrowing and borrowing, and there's no end in sight," the Kentucky Republican said.

Budget watchdog groups joined in airing their displeasure with the details of the bills.

“Another $400 billion in debt is the worst possible holiday gift for our children,” said Michael Peterson of the Peterson Foundation.  “This last-minute grab-bag budget bill has something political for everyone in Washington, yet it hurts the next generation and the future prosperity of our nation.”

Congress is supposed to finish its government funding work by September 30 of each year - in order to begin the new fiscal year on a clean slate.

But in the past 45 years, lawmakers have completed that work on time only on four occasions, in 1976, 1988, 1994 and 1996.

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