$634 Billion Spending Bill Gets Final Hill OK; Measure Allots Money for Auto Industry, Disasters, Defense

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Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Senate on Saturday passed a stopgap $634 billion spending measure to keep federal agencies funded through March that also includes money for U.S. automakers, disaster relief and billions of extra dollars for the Pentagon.

The measure ends a 26-year-old offshore oil-drilling moratorium that is set to expire Oct. 1. Democrats initially had pushed for a one-year extension of the ban, but caved to Republican and White House demands the ban be lifted.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the Democrats for allowing the drilling moratorium to expire.

For the last several months, Americans have been demanding Congress act to lower high prices at the pump and develop new domestic sources of energy, the Kentucky Republican said. Today, Congress responded.

But Democrats say they will work to reinstate the ban when a new administration takes office next year.

The spending measure passed by a vote of 78-12. The House on Wednesday also easily passed the measure, which now goes to the White House. President Bush is expected to sign the bill.

The package was necessary because Congress failed to approve any of the 12 annual appropriation bills needed to keep federal agencies operating for fiscal year 2009, which begins Wednesday. The measure would keep most domestic agencies and departments at current budget levels until March 6. …