WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a $1.1 trillion federal spending plan, a peaceful and bipartisan truce after years of bitter feuding over the government's role and reach.
The 72-26 vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it. It came a day after the House also gave it strong bipartisan backing.
This burst of partisan cooperation may not last. But for a moment, at least, it suggested that a Congress facing historically dismal approval ratings has heard its constituents' message: Stop all the partisan battles, find common ground and do your job.
The bill goes line by line listing how taxpayer money will be spent between now and Sept. 30 on discretionary items. In all, the plan provides about $23 billion in deficit reduction.
Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer, both Nebraska Republicans, voted against it. So did Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
“It's too much spending,” Fischer told The World-Herald.
Fischer also said that the measure did not fully reverse the cuts in the growth of military retirement benefits that were part of the budget deal approved last month.
Johanns said that there were parts of the bill he would otherwise support but that those good provisions were overshadowed by the price tag in excess of $1 trillion.
“Instead of making the tough choices, this package is a return to the business-as-usual spending habits that led to a more than $17 trillion debt,” he said.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, voted in favor of the bill, describing it as bipartisan legislation that makes important investments.
Senators routinely complained Thursday that their favorite programs were shortchanged.
A handful maintained that the whole package is an irresponsible abrogation of their duty to rein in the federal deficit.
The package “does nothing to restore economic growth, stop Obamacare or fix our spending problem,” protested Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
The prevailing mood, though, was one of acquiescence.
“It is certainly far better than the alternative, which would be another confrontation, another government shutdown, and another giant step further away from establishing some sense of regular order,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., considered a strong fiscal conservative.
“In today's era of shutdowns, slowdown, slam-down politics, where negotiating occurs on cable TV rather than in committee rooms, we worked together, setting aside partisan differences,” Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said Thursday.
The bill had enough for lawmakers to go home — they're leaving Washington today for a 10-day recess — and boast.
Whether the agreement will mean enduring political peace is uncertain. The next big fiscal struggle this winter and spring will involve increasing the debt limit.
To date, there is no compromise in sight. Lawmakers had better be careful: Polls say Americans are tired of bickering.
“The wounds from past years will take time to heal,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “American voters are still in a very grumpy mood.”
World-Herald staff writer Joseph Morton contributed to this report.