- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Senate on Saturday sent the final spending bill for fiscal year 2010, the $636.3 billion defense spending bill, to President Obama to sign into law, setting the stage for a stretch run to try to pass health care.

Senators braved biting winds and driving snow to vote, 88-10, to pass the bill. But that overwhelming tally belied the venomous fight that has broken out as Republicans are using every tactic possible to delay returning to health care, which Democratic leaders have vowed to pass by Christmas.

The bill includes $128 billion to fund the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This is a good strong message we’ve sent to our men and women in uniform,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, told his colleagues after the final vote. “It was a little bit of a struggle to get here but we got here.”

Nine of the votes against the bill came from Republicans, who were joined by Sen. Russell Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat.

Last weekend, the Senate passed a package of six other appropriations bills — all of them long overdue. The fiscal year began Oct. 1, and much of the government has been running on stopgap funding for the last two and a half months.

Technically that stopgap funding ran out Friday night, and the Senate passed another stopgap bill Saturday just in case the massive defense bill takes awhile to process.

Republicans had forced Democrats to spend three days of floor time on the spending bill as a way of putting off the health care bill. Democrats accused Republicans of making funding for the troops a pawn in their attempts to obstruct Senate business.

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