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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2009

House OKs $410B measure providing domestic funds


WASHINGTON - The Democratic-controlled House approved a $410 billion measure yesterday that boosts domestic programs, bristles with earmarks, and chips away at policies left behind by the Bush administration.

The vote was 245-178, largely along party lines.

Republicans assailed the measure as too costly, particularly on the heels of the $787 billion stimulus bill that President Barack Obama signed last week. Democrats jabbed back.

The legislation includes nine of the regular appropriations bills for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Unable to reach agreement with President George W. Bush last year, Congress provided most domestic agencies and programs with a short-term infusion of cash. It runs out at the end of next week.

Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate already have negotiated and agreed on the contents of the new legislation. But conservative Republican senators could try to amend the bill, pare it down, or delete earmarks. If they succeed, the bill would need to go back to the House before it could be presented to the President.

In the House, 229 Democrats and 16 Republicans backed the spending bill with 159 Republicans and 20 Democrats opposed.

Among Ohio congressmen, Democrat Marcy Kaptur voted yes and Republicans Bob Latta and Jim Jordan voted no. Michigan Democrats John Dingell and Mark Schauer voted yes.

Democrats included a prohibition on a cost-of-living increase for members of Congress for the year. Overall, the legislation would provide increases of roughly 8 percent for the federal agencies it covers, about $32 billion more than last year.

Republicans did not mince words in calling the bill wasteful. One watchdog group said it contained funds for more than 8,500 pet projects favored by lawmakers - from both parties - costing nearly $8 billion.

Miss Kaptur successfully got $122,821 put aside for the Greater Toledo Arts Commission to market and develop support for local artists. The arts project includes support for twice-annual gallery events for artists and arts-related businesses. Miss Kaptur "certainly makes no excuses about earmarks," said spokesman Steve Fought. "She has used them to catalyze economic development in her district for many years."

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