Posted: 12/11/2014 9:40 pm EST Updated: 2 minutes ago
WASHINGTON -- At least Democrats will have eggnog to wash down the poison pills they swallowed on Thursday as the House narrowly passed a government funding bill that will let Congress go home early for Christmas.
The House barely passed the inelegantly named "cromnibus" appropriations bill after President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) were forced into an unlikely alliance against rebellions from both parties, primarily led by the "Elizabeth Warren wing" and House Democrats. The bill, which passed 219 to 206, with 57 Democrats and 67 Republicans opposed, will keep the government running after current funding expires at midnight.
Some Republicans didn't think the measure was conservative enough. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and most of her colleagues, meanwhile, were bitterly opposed to two attached riders that would whittle away at campaign finance rules and roll back provisions in the Dodd Frank Wall Street reform act designed to curb the risky trading at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis.
Pelosi nearly torpedoed the $1.1 trillion measure during a procedural vote Thursday morning, when all her members and 17 Republicans opposed a rule that set the terms of debate on the measure. A similar coalition balked later at final passage, forcing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to delay a final vote for hours.
Pelosi marshaled her caucus against the bill even after the White House urged support. The administration said the bill "provides certainty," even though it did not like the Wall Street gift.
White House spokesman John Earnest argued that the bill does more good than bad, and that it represented compromise for the GOP, which initially wanted to gut the Affordable Care Act and Obama's executive actions on immigration.
"This is the kind of compromise that the president's been seeking from Republicans for years now," Earnest said in an appearance on MSNBC.
Pelosi said she was "enormously disappointed" that the White House had given the omnibus bill its blessing. In a scathing speech on the House floor, she said she would not vote for the bill, focusing her criticism on the language that would weaken Dodd-Frank.
"This is ransom, this is blackmail," Pelosi said. "We don't get a bill unless Wall Street gets its taxpayer-funded coverage."
The controversial provision lets taxpayer-insured banks conduct the sort of derivatives trading that Dodd-Frank barred them from engaging in after the 2008 financial meltdown. Compliance has repeatedly been delayed, however, and was not set to kick in until next summer. The other provision that sparked Democrats' ire was a change to campaign finance rules that lets wealthy donors dramatically boost contributions to party committees.
To Democrats, it looked like the GOP had crafted a bill to let Wall Streeters rake in more cash with risky, taxpayer-backed trading, while at the same time clearing them to donate more money to their GOP benefactors.
"This is exquisitely reckless — a special provision for Wall Street in exchange for money from Wall Street," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) told HuffPost.
The battle was bitter enough that Pelosi issued a statement telling her caucus to stand tall, at the same time Boehner and Obama were scrambling for support.
"The Republicans don’t have enough votes to pass the CRomnibus," Pelosi wrote. "This increases our leverage to get two offensive provisions of the bill removed: the bank bailout and big money for campaigns provision."
But she also signaled her members could vote their consciences. "However you decide to vote in the end, I thank those who continue to give us leverage to improve the bill," she said.
The fact that the vote was so close was a significant surprise, since 70 Democrats had voted with Republicans to pass the same Dodd-Frank provision a year ago. And veteran Democratic lawmakers like Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.) told reporters early on that they’d probably support the bill.
In the end, enough Democrats and Republicans relented. The Senate will now have to take up and pass the measure before midnight.
Government Stays Open As Congress Advances Poison-Pill Spending Bill