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Fate of Huge Spending Bill Uncertain As Some in Both Parties Slam Deal

Some on both sides say they can't support the legislation even as the deadline to avert a government shutdown looms.
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House Speaker John Boehner is defending the $1.01 trillion spending bill just unveiled by lawmakers, saying that negotiators in both parties agreed on the controversial measures tacked onto the legislation. But some on both sides say they can't support the deal even as the deadline to avert a government shutdown looms.

“All these provisions in this bill have been worked out in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion, or they wouldn’t be in the bill,” Boehner said in a press conference Wednesday.

A vocal group of conservative Republicans has long opposed the spending package, saying that it doesn’t do enough to stop the president’s recent executive actions on immigration. Two prominent outside conservative groups - the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation - are publicly urging members to oppose the bill.

Other critics say that congressional leaders should not have inserted language that would effectively overturn the District of Columbia’s recent legalization of marijuana and would dramatically raise donation limits for the political parties.

And some Democrats are now objecting to the bill, too. In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that some in her party are "deeply troubled" with a part of the bill that would roll back a significant part of the financial reform legislation that passed in 2010.

Taking to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts urged those in her party to oppose the spending bill because of the financial policy language, calling it "a giveaway to most powerful banks in this country."

"This is a democracy, and the American people didn't elect us to stand up for Citigroup, they elected us to stand up for all the people," she said.

With immigration reform foes defecting on his right flank, Boehner needs a substantial chunk of Democrats to support the spending package to get it over the finish line. The House is expected to take up that bill Thursday, the same day that funding for the federal government expires.

If the $1.01 trillion bill doesn't have enough support to pass the House, GOP leaders plan to put forward a short-term measure that would keep the government funded for only a few months. That would set up a funding showdown in the new Congress -- and it could be perceived as a loss for Democrats, whose influence on spending levels would be diminished.

Boehner said on Wednesday that the bill's drafters worked hard to come up with a version of the bill that could win sufficient support.

“It took this long to put this bill together,” Boehner said. “When you look at the number of agreements that had to be struck on funding levels, on riders and other provisions, there’s a lot in this bill. And the appropriators did, frankly, a marvelous job.”

Boehner, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, pushed for the campaign finance measure, according to an appropriations committee aide. The D.C. marijuana rider was championed by Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a Boehner lieutenant who frequently allies with Tea Party devotees, sought to calm conservative ire on the immigration issue Wednesday, promising that the big clash with the White House is yet to come.

“[The bill] finally sets up a battle in just a few weeks with the president on immigration and his attempt at illegal action,” Scalise told reporters of the legislation, which mandates a February deadline to re-up funding for the Department of Homeland Security. “When we have a Republican Senate, we can actually move legislation through the process that puts a check on this president and the things he’s trying to do that are illegal."

- Carrie Dann