Senate easily passes spending bill

By BY ANDREW TAYLORAssociated Press

WASHINGTON - Congress sent President Barack Obama a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill Thursday, easing the harshest

effects of last year's automatic budget cuts after tea party critics chastened by October's partial shutdown mounted only

a faint protest.

The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure, which cleared the House a little more than 24 hours earlier on a similarly lopsided

vote. Obama's signature on the bill was expected in time to prevent any interruption in government funding Saturday at midnight.

The huge bill funds every agency of government, pairing increases for NASA and Army Corps of Engineers construction projects

with cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and foreign aid. It pays for implementation of Obama's health care law; a fight

over implementing "Obamacare" sparked tea party Republicans to partially shut the government down for 16 days last October.

Also included is funding for tighter regulations on financial markets, but at levels lower than the president wanted.

The compromise-laden legislation reflects the realities of divided power in Washington and a desire by both Democrats and

Republicans for an election-year respite after three years of budget wars that had Congress and the White House lurching from

crisis to crisis. Both parties looked upon the measure as a way to ease automatic spending cuts that both the Pentagon and

domestic agencies had to begin absorbing last year.

All 53 Democrats, two independents and 17 Republicans voted for the bill. The 26 votes against it were all cast by Republicans.

The measure advanced to Obama three months after House Republicans called off the government shutdown and sought a scaled-back

bargain with Democratic lawmakers and the president. It added the details to the framework laid out by the December bargain

between the chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees.