The Democratic-controlled House approved $410 billion legislation Wednesday that boosted domestic programs, bristled with earmarks and chipped away at policies left behind by the Bush administration. The vote was 245-178, largely along party lines.
Republicans assailed the measure as too costly—particularly on the heels of a $787 billion stimulus bill that President Barack Obama signed last week. But Democrats jabbed back.
"The same people who drove the economy into the ditch are now complaining about the size of the tow truck," said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., pointing out the large increase in deficits that President George W. Bush and GOP-controlled Congresses amassed.
From the GOP side, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said the legislation was "going to grow the government 8.3 percent ... but the family budget which has to pay for the federal budget only grew at 1.3 percent last year."
The debate occurred one day after Obama told Congress in a prime time television address that he intends to cut deficits in half over the next four years, and one day before he submits tax and spending plans for the coming year.
Given the extraordinary costs of the financial industry bailout and the stimulus, the White House projects this year's budget shortfall will be $1.5 trillion, triple the previous record of $455 billion in 2008.
In a symbolic bow to the recession, Democrats included in the spending measure a prohibition on a cost-of-living increase for members of Congress for the year.
Overall, the legislation would provided increases of roughly 8 percent for the federal agencies it covered, about $32 billion more than last year.