Staff and Wire Reports
WASHINGTON — Republicans whisked a $388 billion spending bill through the House on Saturday, a mammoth measure that underscores the dominance of deficit politics by curbing dollars for everything from education to environmental cleanups.
Lawmakers approved the measure by a bipartisan 344-51 margin on what might be the last day of their postelection session.
Included in the funding is $2.35 million for infrastructure improvements in Curry County to support the Glanbia cheese plant between Clovis and Portales.
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici R-N.M., a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, requested the funding in March as part of the Transportation, Treasury and General Government Appropriations Bill. These projects will be part of a massive omnibus appropriations package that will include nine separate appropriations bills. All items in the $388 billion measure will be subject to a .83 percent across-the-board reduction.
“I am very happy that these federal transportation funds have been secured. A solid infrastructure is necessary to support any major industry, including a cheese plant that will be one of the largest in the nation,” Domenici said. “This appropriation should be viewed as an investment in the economic future of the region, and I’m pleased to have had a role in making it possible.
The $2.35 million appropriation will be used to construct a “highway quality” roadway from Highway 70 to the plant, and will provide for the addition of acceleration lanes on Highway 70 itself to allow for trucks to safely enter and exit the highway.
The cheese plant is a joint venture between Glanbia Foods, Dairy Farmers of America, and Select Milk Producers. The facility is expected to generate 205 new jobs and an estimated $450 million in annual sales.
The package also included:
• $1 million for an overpass on N.M. Highway 467 in Roosevelt County,
• $500,000 for Eastern New Mexico University to buy telecommunications equipment for KENW and
• $400,000 for the Clovis Fire Department to purchase emergency vehicles.
The package passed 65-30 in the Senate.
From its tight domestic spending to the Democratic-backed provisions on overtime and other issues that were dropped, the bill is a monument to the GOP’s raw power controlling the White House and Congress. An imposing monument, too: The bill and explanatory report, completed near midnight Friday, were about 14 inches tall, leaving many lawmakers baffled about its precise contents.
“I’m very proud of the fact that we held the line and made Congress make choices and set priorities, because it follows our philosophy,” Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said in House debate.
Even President Bush’s initiatives were not immune to cuts as the bill’s GOP chief authors heeded his demands to control spending. His request for development of new nuclear weapons was rejected; his budget for the AmeriCorps volunteer program was sliced by 12 percent; and the $2.5 billion he wanted to aid countries adopting democratic practices was slashed by $1 billion.
Passage would crown the lame-duck session of Congress, which began Tuesday. Lawmakers hoped to leave town for the year Saturday night, but Senate delays on the spending bill and the collapse of bargaining over a measure reorganizing U.S. intelligence agencies left timing in doubt.
While the spending bill was one of the most austere in years, it had something for virtually every lawmaker, including mountains of home-district projects. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a bipartisan group favoring less federal spending, said it found 11,772 projects worth $15.8 billion.