The massive federal spending deal struck by Capitol Hill leaders from both parties came packed with goodies in a buffet designed to let lawmakers of both parties find something they liked.
A majority of Republicans and enough Democrats did, sending the bill sailing through in the wee hours of Friday morning after a spell of drama — and a brief shutdown of the federal government.
But both of Louisiana's U.S. senators cast votes against the package, decrying the deficit-boosting two-year agreement as reckless spending. In the House, half of Louisiana's six congressmen cried "nay" on the bill.
The bill's Louisiana backers — Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre; and Ralph Abraham, R-Alto — focused on the boost in funding for the military wrapped into the package. The Pentagon will see more than $160 billion in additional funding over the next two years under the agreement, which scrapped the caps on federal spending that had been imposed in 2011.
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"For too long, America’s men and women in uniform have faced budget uncertainty that has challenged our military readiness and threatened their ability to safely train for their missions," said Scalise, the majority whip, who helped shepherd the bill through the House.
"I understand and share the concerns about the debt," said Abraham. "I would have written the bill differently, but our military needed long-term funding. Debt has consequences, but so does failing to provide our troops with the resources they need to defend us from our enemies while we sleep safely in our beds at night."
But other Pelican State Republicans pointed to the other side of the ledger in ripping it. The bill tacked on $130 billion in extra domestic spending as well, something that Democrats had insisted on, and will increase the federal deficit.
"Although every big spending deal in Congress has good with bad, the hope is that the good outweighs," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana. "In this bill, the bad outweighs. There are fake savings, it grows the size of government and significantly increases the deficit and debt."
"This isn’t ‘Monopoly’ money," said Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, hours after voting against it. "This is literally mortgaging our children’s future."
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier, blasted the agreement as "fiscal insanity" and called it "an immoral and cowardly abdication of our responsibility." Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, also turned his thumb down on the bill.
While a majority of Louisiana's Republicans in Congress turned against the agreement for what was in it, the state's lone Democrat ripped the deal for what wasn't.
New Orleans Rep. Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, had demanded that some sort of legal status for so-called "Dreamers" — immigrants brought to the country illegally as children — be included in any spending deal.
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But lawmakers left immigration out of the package.
Richmond also joined Graves in criticizing provisions in the $89 billion disaster-relief package tacked on to the massive spending deal. Richmond and Graves had co-authored a revision to the law that would have allowed Louisiana flood victims who had applied for Small Business Administration loans to tap Restore Louisiana recovery grant money.
The disaster-relief package contained a fix to the SBA loan issue — but its terms are much narrower, limited only to those who ended up turning down the loans. Richmond said that left out thousands in Louisiana.
Three historically black universities in New Orleans that have struggled in recent years with tight finances will see roughly $330 million in …