WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said he will sign the $410 billion spending bill that would keep the U.S. federal government running, despite thousands of earmarks.
"I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it is necessary for the ongoing functions of government," Obama said while announcing a reform proposal to the process of earmarking funds for projects in congressional districts.
"Yesterday, Congress sent me the final part of last year's budget; a piece of legislation that rolls nine bills required to keep the government running into one," Obama said. "That is what nearly 99 percent of this legislation does -- the nearly 99 percent you probably haven't heard much about."
What Americans have heard about are the earmarks, he said. Taxpayers for Common Sense, an independent watchdog group, found 8,570 earmarks in the bill, worth $7.7 billion.
"I also find it ironic that some of those who railed the loudest against this bill because of earmarks actually inserted earmarks of their own -- and will tout them in their own states and districts," Obama said.
The budget bill, caught up in term-end politics between Congress and the Bush administration, passed the House fairly easily before encountering a rocky road in the Senate, where lawmakers of both parties either opposed the deluge of earmarks or the scope of spending, The Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) reported Wednesday. The measure passed on a voice vote after senators voted 62-35 to end debate.
The measure would provide funding for nine departments for activities other than defense and homeland security-related agencies, whose budgets were approved last fall. Many agencies would see increases, in some cases 10 percent or more above fiscal 2008 levels, the Post said, increases some senators criticized.
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