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House passes last-minute spending bill over liberal objections

The House fended off a surprise revolt from liberal Democrats over provisions to roll back regulations on Wall Street and campaign finance.

With just hours before government funding was scheduled to expire, the House voted 219-206 to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill, fending off a last-minute revolt from liberal Democrats over provisions to roll back regulations on Wall Street and campaign finance. 

The bill passed on a smaller margin than expected after a contentious and unpredictable day of fighting on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner needed Democratic votes to make up for 67 Republicans who voted against the bill from the right, mostly for failing to do enough to push back against President Obama's executive action on immigration, which could shield 5 million more immigrants from deportation.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which, according to Sen. Harry Reid, will begin consideration of the measure Friday. Meanwhile, both houses on Thursday voted to pass a separate bill to keep the lights on until the Senate vote.

"This measure puts us on track to save taxpayers more than $2.1 trillion while protecting jobs and supporting our national defense," Boehner said in a statement responding to the vote. "In addition, by the House's action, we are setting up a direct challenge to the president's unilateral actions on immigration next month, when there will be new Republican majorities in both chambers."

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In an unusual alliance, both Obama and Boehner were lobbying members to support the legislation as it became clear that defections from House Democrats -- as well as conservative Republicans -- could imperil the $1.1 trillion spending bill. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made personal calls to Democratic members and sent White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to Capitol Hill on Thursday evening to make the case for the bill.

The bill passed with 162 Republican and 57 Democratic votes. Democrats supporting the legislation said there was a lot to like in the underlying spending bill -- which increases funding for early childhood education, the National Institutes of Health, and the Ebola fight, among other things -- and say that pushing the fight to the next Congress would only weaken their hands as Republicans assume control of both houses.

"Nobody's going to get anything," said retiring Rep. Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat. The bipartisan budget agreement was worked out between Rep. Hal Rogers, the GOP appropriations chair, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, his Democratic counterpart. Roger told reporters that he wasn't confident it would pass until "halfway through the vote."

Despite registering strong objections and voting against the bill, House Leader Nancy Pelosi did not push members to vote one way or the other. Pelosi did so because she believed there were "people who worked very hard to get certain provisions" into the broader spending bill, said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, emerging briefly during Democratic caucus meeting on the issue.

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Liberals said it would be morally reprehensible for them to support a bill that eases new regulations on derivatives that could put taxpayers on the hook for another bailout and that increases donor limits on campaign contributions to national party committees. "We've got to stand up on principle at some point, or they're going to kick us even more next year," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat. 

Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, led the effort to kill the bill which she said was "going to give the store to the biggest banks in America."

Waters said Democrats had momentum to defeat it at the start of the day, but blamed personal appeals to members from JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon and President Obama for derailing the effort. 

"That's an odd combination," she said. 

Their counterparts on the other side of the aisle faced plenty of pressure from their own. Republican Congressman Bill Flores said he received around 500 calls, emails, and social media messages from his Texas constituents overwhelmingly opposed to the continuing resolution. For once, however, the focus leading into a tough vote wasn't only on his party's angry base alone. 

"Everybody's been so fascinated by the intra-Republican, intra-conservative ... fighting," Flores told reporters. "It's entertaining to watch the other side do it now."