Senate approves huge spending bill

Federal agency operations got a boost Sunday as the Senate approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill that Republicans said will cost too much as the country continues to grapple with tough economic times.

On a 57-35 vote, senators approved legislation that would combine $447 billion in funds for a variety of federal agencies and about $650 billion in payments for benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The agency money is for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010. It doesn’t include defense spending.

The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature into law.

Republicans have attacked the bill, which represents annual spending increases averaging nearly 10 percent for the 10 covered agencies.

“Once again, the majority has shown a lack of restraint when it comes to spending,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, on Friday.

The House passed the bill on Dec. 10.

Passage of the bills came as lawmakers are negotiating a rise in the U.S. debt ceiling, now at $12.1 trillion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to push legislation increasing the borrowing limit next week.

As lawmakers mull raising the debt ceiling, some congressional Democrats are also calling for the creation of a new commission tasked with drawing up ways to slash the country’s long-term debt.

The U.S. government ran a record 14th straight monthly deficit in November, the Treasury Department reported. In fiscal 2009, the government ran a deficit of $1.4 trillion, more than three times the shortfall recorded in 2008. Read story about November deficit.

(c) 2009, Inc. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.