Senate Passes $1.1T Spending Bill

The U.S. Senate on Saturday passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill for 2015, averting the closure of some parts of the government despite significant pushback against a contentious measure repealing much of the Dodd-Frank Act’s “swaps push-out” rule.

Senators voted 56-40 in favor of the bill late Saturday after a contentious day, sending it on to President Barack Obama — who previously signaled that he would sign it into law — and ending the threat of a “government shutdown” for a second year in a row.

On the Senate floor, some lawmakers urged their colleagues to vote for the bill so as to avert a “damaging” government shutdown, often while simultaneously criticizing various provisions in the legislation — including multiemployer pension plan reforms, cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and a clause loosening election campaign contribution limits.

The most contentious of those provisions was a clause meant to significantly pare back the swaps push-out rule, a Dodd-Frank Act measure that requires banks to split off most of their derivatives trading — except for some limited types of such transactions and derivatives deals used for hedging risk — into subsidiaries that can’t draw on federal support in the event of a failure.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., had been the most prominent of these critics, and she continued to rail against the bill on the Senate floor Friday.

The measure, which Warren alleged had been drafted by Citigroup Inc. lobbyists, was an example of Citi’s “unprecedented” grip on financial policymaking through both lobbying and its ties to officials in the White House, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve and other federal agencies, she argued, sharply criticizing the banking giant.

The swaps push-out provision had been similarly contentious for House lawmakers, serving as the main sticking point that held up the bill’s passage Thursday, with supporters and opponents in both parties laying out their reasons — behind closed doors — for more than seven hours after the floor debate ended.

House leaders ultimately reconvened the lawmakers at around 9 p.m., and the legislation narrowly passed in a 219-206 vote with the support of an unusual coalition of Democratic and Republican lawmakers. That was followed by a temporary continuing resolution, or CR, giving the Senate time to consider the bill without government funding authority expiring.

The spending bill has been unofficially dubbed the “cromnibus,” as an omnibus combination of 11 out of 12 regular appropriations bills normally considered by Congress each year, alongside a CR funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through February, amid an immigration dispute between Republican lawmakers and the administration.

The bill provides for a total of $1.1 trillion in spending for fiscal year 2015, including $1.014 trillion in baseline discretionary spending — in line with an earlier budget agreement for 2014 and 2015 — as well as nearly $74 billion in so-called overseas contingency operations funding for the U.S. departments of Defense and State and about $12 billion in combined disaster and Ebola crisis aid.

Among the broad range of areas covered by the bill, the federal judiciary will get a boost, with federal courts receiving $6.7 billion, or $182 million more than in 2014. Financial enforcement agencies will also see increased budgets, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission up $150 million to $1.5 billion — although its $25 million “reserve fund” has been eliminated — and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission up $35 million to $250 million.

Several agencies have lost out, however, even with a slightly increased top line over the $1.012 trillion allowed for fiscal year 2014. The Internal Revenue Service, for instance, will receive $10.9 billion for fiscal 2015, a cut of nearly $346 million, as well as explicit restrictions on what it can do with its funding, in response to controversies that have plagued the agency over the past few years.

The EPA will receive a $60 million cut, with a total budget of $8.1 billion, and be subject to restrictions on aspects of its oversight authority, amid Republican lawmakers’ complaints concerning alleged regulatory overreach.