Most Georgians back $1.1 trillion spending bill as it clears House

WASHINGTON -- After a day of drama, the U.S. House cleared a $1.1 trillion spending package to fund almost all of the government through September.

In the Georgia delegation, 10 of 14 members voted in favor of the bill -- despite clamoring from the left and the right to take it down.

Georgia's "no" votes were Reps. Paul Broun, R-Athens; Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia; John Lewis, D-Atlanta; and Austin Scott, R-Tifton. The overall tally was 219-206, with 67 Republicans voting against it and 57 Democrats voting for it.

The vote was originally scheduled for 2:30 p.m., but delayed when House leaders determined they did not have the votes. Democrats held a three-hour meeting in which many members -- including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Lewis -- spoke out against the bill because it loosened some regulations on derivatives trading contained in the 2010 financial reform law.

Lewis later recounted his speech to Jamie Dupree of WSB-Radio.

"The only thing I suggested that you have to stand for something. If you don't stand for something, as Dr. [Martin Luther] King said, you will fall for anything. I reminded them that in 1963 when I spoke at the March on Washington I raised the question. I wanted to know which side is the federal government on?

"So tonight I raised the question: Which side is the Democratic caucus on? Are you on the side of the big banks, Wall Street? Or are you on the side of the American people? And I said in good conscience I could not vote for the bill."

Earlier in the day, Johnson coined a new term to describe the bill. Instead of "CRomnibus" -- a hybrid of the Washington terms "continuing resolution" and "omnibus" -- he called it a "crime-nibus. Because I think it’s a crime to significantly alter Dodd-Frank in an appropriations bill to benefit big banks on Wall Street."

Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, contended that the doom and gloom was overblown. Scott said based on his reading of the Dodd-Frank law, which he helped craft as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, protections for deposit holders and taxpayers will stand despite the changes:

"The Paul Volcker rule states unequivocally that no bank customers' money, or funds, that are are in their accounts, in banks' accounts, can be used for proprietary trading, which means that's safe. ... Secondly, Barney Frank and I wrote the amendment that is in the first thing in the Frank bill that no taxpayer money can be used to bail out banks. So the taxpayers are protected."

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, cast one of his final votes in Congress for the measure, saying he did not want his final act to be a politically damaging shutdown.

"I’m thinking long," he said. "Trying to maintain my conservative credentials and principles, listening to arguments on both sides of the issue. ... I’ve given a lot of thought to it and I just feel like the right vote is a vote to do this and let the cavalry, hopefully, arrive in the 114th" Congress.

The typical saying when lawmakers are working to get something done before a break is that they are "smelling jet fumes."

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Coweta County, earlier in the day had a holiday-themed premonition: "I think people are hearing sleigh bells."

After a tense delay, he was proven right.

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