WASHINGTON - The Senate yesterday passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government, including health, education, law enforcement and veterans' programs.
The more-than-1,000-page package, one of the last essential chores of Congress this year, passed 57-35 and now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The weekend action underlined the legislative crush faced by Congress as it tries to wind up the year. After the vote, the Senate immediately returned to the debate on health-care legislation that has consumed its time and energy for weeks. Senate Democrats hope to reach a consensus in the coming days on Obama's chief domestic priority.
The spending bill combines six of the 12 annual appropriation bills for the 2010 budget year that began Oct. 1. Obama has signed into law five others.
The final one, a $626 billion defense bill, is expected to attract proposals to raise the $12.1 trillion debt ceiling and stimulate the jobs market.
The spending bill passed yesterday includes $447 billion for departments' operating budgets and about $650 billion in mandatory payments for federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs under immediate control of Congress would see increases of about 10 percent.
The FBI gets $7.9 billion, a $680 million increase over 2009; the Veterans Health Administration budget goes from $41 billion to $45.1 billion; and the National Institutes of Health receives $31 billion, a $692 million increase.
All but three Democrats voted for the bill, while all but three Republicans opposed it. The six senators from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware voted for the measure.
Democrats said the spending was critical to meet the needs of a recession-battered economy. "Every bill that is passed, every project that is funded and every job that is created helps America take another step forward on the road of economic recovery," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.
Republicans decried what they called out-of control spending and pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion in the bill for more than 5,000 local projects sought by individual lawmakers from both parties.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime critic of such projects, said it was "shameful" that so many had found their way into the legislation. Most Americans, he said, were watching football and not the Senate debate, adding, "If they knew what we are about to pass . . . ."