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House's Budget Bill Debate Unveiled Democratic Rifts, GOP Ambitions


Late last night the House narrowly passed a $1.1 trillion spending package. The immediate impact of the vote is that the federal government will not be shut down. But the debate over the bill revealed a few things - the new clout Republicans will yield in Congress and a growing divide within the Democratic ranks. NPR's Juana Summers reports.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is typically a loyal supporter of President Obama, but she broke with the administration over a provision in the bill that would roll back some of the regulations that came out of the banking crisis. But the White House publicly supported the spending bill, and nearly 60 Democrats teamed with Republicans to help pass it. Congressman Jim Moran was one of them.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM MORAN: We have 11 appropriation bills that reflect Democratic as well as Republican priorities. They're the best bills we could possibly have come up with.

SUMMERS: But the package didn't make everyone happy. Some House Republicans felt that House Speaker John Boehner didn't go far enough to tackle President Obama's executive actions on immigration. The spending bill funds the Department of Homeland Security only through February. Then, Republicans will control both Chambers of Congress and have more leverage to unravel Obama's actions on immigration. Just minutes after the vote, Congressman Steve Scalise, a member of Republican leadership, was already looking ahead.

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE SCALISE: Tonight we set the stage for a battle with the president on his illegal actions on immigration when we have a Republican Senate in just four weeks.

SUMMERS: Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrats opposed to the Wall Street bailout of 2008 also walked away dissatisfied. They said that the spending bill not only rewards big banks but could also cause another economic crisis. Congresswoman Maxine Waters says she was disappointed in fellow Democrats who gave in after phone calls from the president and a top Wall Street executive.

REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS: I know that the president was whipping, and he was supporting this bill. I know, as I just told you, that Jamie Dimon was whipping and calling directly into members' offices on this bill. And that's odd. That's an odd combination.

SUMMERS: The bill's passage through the House showcased the strengths and weaknesses of both Boehner and Pelosi. Boehner showed a willingness to resist the inclinations of some of his most conservative members and powerful outside groups by passing the bill with Democratic votes. And Pelosi and other Democrats reminded voters that House Republicans often need Democratic votes to score wins on critical legislation. Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia...

REPRESENTATIVE GERRY CONNOLLY: The government would have shut down tonight but for Democratic votes. That's one way of looking at this vote tonight, because the seven of us voted for it.

SUMMERS: Late Thursday night the Senate passed a two day funding bill as an intermediate measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he hopes to pass the broader package by Saturday. Juana Summers, NPR News, the capital. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.