News from The Hill:
Senate approves $1.1T omnibus
By Pete Kasperowicz
The Senate approved the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill Thursday, sending it to the White House for President Obama’s signature and sparing the government from another government shutdown. Senators voted 72-26 in favor of the bill, and all no votes came from Senate Republicans, including GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn (Texas). That followed a 72-26 vote to end debate, which needed 60 votes.
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By Geoffrey Cowley
The last significant legal challenge to Obamacare suffered a setback today, when a Washington DC District Court rejected it. Plaintiffs backed by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute are seeking to block health-care subsidies to low- and moderate-income consumers in 34 states where the federal government is either running or facilitating new health-insurance exchanges. They say the law restricts that support to states that operate exchanges on their own. But in a sweeping and closely argued ruling, Judge Paul L. Friedman thrashed that notion, saying that Congress “clearly intended to make premium tax credits available on both state-run and federally-facilitated exchanges.”
The dispute centers on a single phrase in the health care law. As written, it says the federal government will extend tax credits to qualified consumers who buy health coverage through insurance exchanges “established by the state.”
Represented by Michael Carvin, the lawyer who unsuccessfully challenged the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court in 2012, the plaintiffs claim that the phrase was no mere drafting glitch. According to their legal complaint, Congress intended to use the consumer subsidies as “carrots” to motivate the states to create their own insurance exchanges. “States rejecting the offer got a stick instead: the imposition of a federally-established, federally-operated exchange in the state, with no subsidies at all.”
By the time they leave town Friday for a one-week work period in their home states, senators are expected to pass a $1.1 trillion, 1,582 page spending bill that will avert the threat of a government shutdown for the next several months and help Congress get back to the normal process of budget and spending money that preceded the gridlock of recent years.
The House passed the so-called “omnibus” spending bill Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 357 to 64, despite objections from some outside conservative groups that the bill undid some of the mandatory spending cuts in the sequester.
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