$1.1 trillion spending bill faces first test in Washington

Support from the top leaders should prevent a government shutdown – but disagreement persists over the bill's treatment of immigration and financial regulation

WASHINGTON – A $1.1 trillion spending bill that would allow the U.S. government to avoid another government shutdown faces its first test in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The 1,603-page measure will be scrutinized in advance of a House vote. Support from the top leaders in both the House and the Senate appears to guarantee its passage and prevent a government shutdown Thursday midnight.

Still, conservatives are unhappy because the bill fails to challenge Obama’s immigration policy and many Democrats are displeased because it weakens regulation of risky financial instruments.

And on Wednesday, Democratic support for the bill appeared to be fading.

“I’m not going to support it. I’ve already found lots of provisions that are against the public interest,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen. “I find it surprising that some people are threatening to shut down the government in order to extract big benefits for big banks at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favourite of progressives, blasted the measure as “a deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.

Conservatives were angry, too.

“Why in the world would we want to lock in federal spending through next September that reflects the priorities of the Democratic Senate that voters just thoroughly repudiated last month?” said Rep. Tom McClintock. “Why in the world would we want to so greatly weaken our position to insist on the complete defunding of the president’s unconstitutional act (on immigration) in the next session of Congress?”

The compromise spending bill will permit virtually the entire government to operate normally until the fiscal ends next year on Sept. 30, with the exception of the Homeland Security Department.

Funds for that agency will run out on Feb. 27, when Republicans are expected to try to use the expiration as leverage to force President Barack Obama to roll back a decision suspending the threat of deportation for an estimated 4 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

The measure adheres to tight budget caps negotiated previously between the White House and Republicans. It also includes several provisions to fulfil Republican policy objectives, including significantly weakening new regulations that require banks to set up separate affiliates to deal in the more exotic and riskier forms of complex financial instruments called swaps.

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