In rare bipartisan action, US Congress approves $1.1 trillion budget

Washington, Jan 17: In rare bipartisan action, the US Congress has passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill and sent it to President Barack Obama avoiding a budget battle that led to a government shutdown last October.

The bill to fund the government through September was passed by the Democratic controlled Senate Thursday with a decisive 72-to-26 vote. Seventeen Republicans joined 55 Democrats in supporting the legislation.

The Republican controlled House approved the budget measure on Wednesday in another strong bipartisan vote, 359-to-67.

The Congressional action for the first time since 2012 determined federal spending agency by agency instead of through temporary stopgap measures that spotlighted the partisan divide in Washington.

Obama is expected to sign the measure which includes a 1 percent pay increase for troops and a 1 percent cost-of-living boost for federal workers.

In recent years, after battles over health care, the deficit and social policies from contraception to abortion, the Congress has generally resorted to continuing resolutions without changes in funding levels and allowing sweeping spending cuts to take effect.

Republican and Democratic leaders have taken a different approach following last October’s government shutdown making tradeoffs to avoid another showdown.

Republicans conceded on continued funding for Obama’s signature healthcare law nicknamed Obamacare as well as large spending increases for Head Start and mental health programmes.

Democrats on their part conceded on continued budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).