TIME Congress

Cuban-American Senators Rip Obama’s Cuba Trade

Senator Rubio speaks on the economy
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaks on strategies for sparking economic growth in Washington on March 10, 2014. Brooks Kraft—Corbis

The three Cuban-American senators bashed the Obama Administration’s decision to release three Cubans held by the United States on the same day Cuba released an American contractor it had held for years.

New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez slammed the Administration, calling it an “asymmetrical trade”—a description the Administration rebuts—that “sets a dangerous precedent” and will “invite further belligerence toward Cuba’s opposition movement and the hardening of the government’s dictatorial hold on its people.”

“It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips,” said Menendez, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement. “I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms.”

Menendez added that Alan Gross, who was providing satellite communications equipment to the island’s Jewish population, should have been released “immediately and unconditionally” when he was captured five years ago. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who along with Menendez and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz are the only senators with Cuban roots, criticized the trade for legitimatizing the Cuban narrative about Gross’ work in Cuba, as the three Cubans the U.S. released were prosecuted in court on espionage charges. Cuba also released an unnamed U.S. intelligence asset who has been imprisoned for 20 years.

The Administration announced Gross’ release as part of a major shift to normalize full diplomatic relations with President Raúl Castro’s government after they were largely cut off fifty-three years ago. A senior Administration official said the U.S. embassy would open “as soon as possible” in Havana and that the Administration would authorize expanded exports and imports from Cuba. U.S. credit and debit cards will also be permitted for use in Cuba for the first time, among other changes. Rubio and Cruz ripped the moves, which the Administration touted were historic.

“The President’s decision to reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba is inexplicable,” said Rubio in a statement. “Cuba, like Syria, Iran, and Sudan, remains a state sponsor of terrorism…Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office. As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President’s change in policy.”

“Fidel and Raul Castro have just received both international legitimacy and a badly-needed economic lifeline from President Obama,” added Cruz. “We have seen how previous Obama Administration attempts at rapprochement with rogue regimes like Russia and Iran have worked out, with our influence diminished and our enemies emboldened. Now they are revisiting this same disastrous policy with the Castros, blind to the fact that they are being played by brutal dictators whose only goal is maintaining power. And if history be our guide, the Castros will exploit that power to undermine America and oppress the Cuban people.”

Not all senators were so critical of the Administration. After Gross’ release, Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski called Wednesday “a new day and a monumental breakthrough.” Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin told the Washington Post that the White House and the Vatican had been trying to ensure Gross’ release for more than a year and praised the Administration for attempting to patch U.S.-Cuba relations.

“I think most will acknowledge that our foreign policy for over half a century has not been successful,” said Durbin.“We had hoped by excluding Cuba and pressuring Cuba that the regime would change and it never happened. I think this opening the door to free travel and trade and exchange of realities is going to have a more positive impact in changing Cuba than 50 years of foreign policy.”

With reporting by Zeke J Miller/Washington, D.C.

 

TIME energy

New Republican Congress’ First Order of Business: Keystone Pipeline

GOP Congress Agenda
In this Oct. 4, 2012 file photo, large sections of pipe are shown in Sumner, Texas. Republicans are counting on a swift vote in early 2015 on building the Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast now that Republicans clearly have the numbers in the Senate. Tony Gutierrez—AP

It'll set up a confrontation with President Obama.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the first priority for the new Republican-controlled Senate next year would be to pass a bill authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up an early confrontation with an Obama Administration hesitant to ignite opposition from its green supporters.

“We’ll be starting next year with a job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support,” said McConnell.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a top Republican on the Energy Committee, said that the bipartisan measure was important as it would “basically set the table” for the new Congress. Both McConnell and Murkowski pledged that the bill would be open for amendments and acknowledged the fear that senators could bring unrelated ones that could sink the bill. Their hope is that most senators would prefer “regular order” instead of tactics that limit rank-and-file members’ influence. Many senators, including some Democrats, grew frustrated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for limiting the amendment process to protect vulnerable members of his party during the midterm cycle.

“When we say it’s open for amendments, it’s open for amendments,” said Murkowski. “Santa Claus is going to be keeping me awake, not worrying about what’s going to come.”

Authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline has been a dream for senators from the Great Plains to the Gulf of Mexico. In her failed reelection bid, Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu fell one vote short of rallying enough of her fellow Democrats to pass the bill a few weeks ago.

The 1,179-mile pipeline has been blocked for years despite a State Department report concluding that it would not have a significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions. But study also found that it would create a small number of permanent jobs—around 50—and was published before a dramatic drop in oil and gas prices that could boost environmentalists’ opposition of the pipeline. The Keystone pipeline’s fate could also be taken out of Congress’ hands entirely, depending on a Nebraska court case that could alter its path down the heart of the country.

TIME Congress

Senate Confirms U.S. Surgeon General Despite Gun-Control Support

Vivek Murthy
Vivek Murthy testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2014 Charles Dharapak—AP

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is the only Republican to confirm Murthy

The Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy as U.S. Surgeon General on Monday despite concerns he was underqualified and too outspoken on gun control to be the top spokesman on public-health matters.

Many Democrats praised the 37-year-old Murthy, an attending physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, who had been waiting since mid-November of last year to be confirmed.

“As ‘America’s Doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe,” said President Obama in a statement. “He’ll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong.”

Republicans and a few Democrats — Murthy was confirmed with the bare minimum of 51 votes — have balked at his nomination over comments in which he tied the politically charged issue of gun control as a health care issue. On Monday, the National Rifle Association confirmed that it would “score” the vote, threatening future support for members over his confirmation. West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said in a statement that he opposed Murthy not because of his medical qualifications, but because of questions over whether or not he could “separate his political beliefs from his public health views.”

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is the only Republican Senator who voted to confirm Murthy.

Murthy is best known for co-founding in 2008 Doctors for Obama, which turned into a pro-Obamacare group after the law passed in 2009. He has been endorsed by major health organizations like the American Heart Association and will be the first Indian American at the position.

Murthy was aided by a rule passed by Senate Democrats last year that required only a majority vote for presidential appointments, compared with the 60-vote supermajority of years past. His chances of being confirmed this year were also boosted over the weekend by the efforts of Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz and others, who kept the Senate in session to protest President Obama’s executive action on immigration deferring the deportation of up to 5 million undocumented workers.

That gave Senate majority leader Harry Reid the opportunity to clear legislative hurdles before the chamber quit for the year and a new Congress.

TIME Congress

Congress Approves Trillion-Dollar Spending Bill

House Speaker Boehner Holds Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony For WWII Era Civil Air Patrol
From Left: Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gather onstage prior to the start of a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for World War II era Civil Air Patrol members on Dec. 10, 2014 in Washington D.C. Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Everyone on Capitol Hill won a little and lost a little

The Senate passed a $1.1 trillion government funding bill on Saturday night after days of fiery speeches on the chamber floors from both liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz. But despite some pushed back deadlines and last-minute drama, the plan provided by the parties’ leadership earlier in the week prevailed.

The top appropriators—Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers and Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski—and the party leaders—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner—can claim that they did what’s best for the country, averting a government shutdown in a bipartisan way. Indeed the bill was a compromise: Republicans continued to whack away on domestic discretionary funding, while Democrats won concessions on potential riders to the Environmental Protection Agency and secured billions in funding to combat Ebola and hundreds of millions more to fight ISIS, two key requests from the Administration.

“This bill puts the Affordable Care Act on secure financial footing for the first time in a long time,” said Reid in a statement Saturday night. “It gives our military the tools it needs to combat ISIS. It addresses the rape kit backlog, helping police and prosecutors prevent sexual assault. It increases funding for student loans. It ensures that President Obama’s executive action protecting families can move forward. And it provides funding to fight the Ebola epidemic.”

Neither conservatives nor liberals got what they wanted, but they got what they needed: a message to send back home. Those conservatives in deep red districts who oppose the President’s executive actions on immigration—deferring deportations for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally—now have a vote to draw a contrast between themselves and an unpopular president. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell left the Capitol Friday night, Texas Senator Ted Cruz stayed to throw up legislative hurdles, nabbing headlines after some had claimed his influence had been tamed by establishment figures like House Speaker John Boehner, who led the chamber to avert a government shutdown Thursday night on a close, but bipartisan vote. Even though Cruz’s strategy left his Republican colleagues furious—Reid got to push through more of Obama’s nominations with the extra time spent in the Capitol this weekend—Cruz once again raised his profile through an anti-Obama position. He has already made the choice that, as a first-term senator, his influence lies more on C-SPAN than in the party cloakroom.

“This is what voters demanded in November,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for the conservative Heritage Action, of Cruz’s weekend pushback. “The election was a referendum on Obama and his planned executive amnesty.”

Liberals, who have a tighter hold on the Democratic Party after the midterms thinned out their conservative counterparts, can now prove their bona fides sticking up for the little guy as they voted against provisions raising the amount donors can donate to the parties and another that facilitates Wall Street derivatives trading. Warren and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi found that despite losing those battles, their core supporters were pleased simply with drawing attention to their issues.

“It’s not just about wins and losses, it’s about if they’re willing to fight for it, not just talk about it,” said Josh Goldstein, an AFL-CIO spokesman. “Senator Warren and Leader Pelosi—they’re proven leaders willing to fight for it. They stand with workers, that’s why we stand with them.”

In essence, the wings of both parties, which draw their strength from picking fights, found good ones.

“Democrats won,” said Holler. “It is curious that some Republicans are unwilling to pursue the mandate they were given. Cruz, [Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff] Sessions, [Utah Republican Senator Mike] Lee and others are though. Guess which side is more popular with the base of the party?”

“They’ve done damage to Dodd-Frank but they haven’t done irreversible damage,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Warren ally and future top Democrat on the Banking Committee, referring to the 2010 landmark financial reform law. “And that’s Wall Street’s game and it’s our job to make sure they don’t win all the time and to protect the public…The battle continues.”

 

TIME Congress

Congress Narrowly Avoids Government Shutdown

Congress averted a short-term shutdown by passing a spending bill before midnight

The House squeaked through a $1.1 trillion bill Thursday night with only hours to spare before a midnight deadline that would have shut down the government.

On the House floor, the vote tally—219 to 206—was watched as closely as the scoreboard in the final minutes of a hard-fought game after the initial scheduled vote was postponed for seven hours of arm-twisting, including a plea from White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to House Democrats. Congressmen ordered Armand’s and Papa John’s pizza when it became clear they would have to stay for dinner.

“Merry Christmas,” said Ohio Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi with more than a trace of faux enthusiasm after Washington’s worst holiday tradition was over.

There was a significant chance that the bill wouldn’t have passed, forcing a short-term, months-long patch. As it became clear that the Republican-controlled House was short of the votes, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden began calling wavering House Democrats. At the same time, House GOP leaders whipped the rank-and-file members they needed.

If the two sides couldn’t cobble together a majority by midnight, the government would have temporarily run out of funding. “I don’t think there’s going to be a government shutdown,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC as the sun set on the Capitol with no agreement in sight.

The last-minute scramble to pass a spending measure called up unpleasant memories of the past several years, when Congress has repeatedly edged right up to deadlines to pass stopgap legislation. In each case, the legislative branch managed to skirt disaster—until last fall, when the Republican Tea Party faction forced a shutdown in an effort to gut the Affordable Care Act. That 16-day shutdown damaged the GOP brand badly, and its leaders promised to sidestep a sequel.

But members of both parties found things in the omnibus bill to hate. Liberal Democrats, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, oppose provisions that would raise the maximum donation that wealthy individuals can give to political parties, as well as another that would provide government backing to some derivative trading measures like credit-default swaps. On the right, some conservative Republicans oppose the bill because it doesn’t defund Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

As a result, Thursday’s logjam caught many in the capital by surprise. Should a shutdown occur, it would have almost surely been short-lived. But the lack of support forced Republicans leaders to delay a planned vote.

“I’m not sure we have the votes,” said Rep. Robert Pittenger, a North Carolina Republican mere hours before the vote. “I do wish that President Obama and Nancy Pelosi would read off the same page.”

The White House urged Democrats to back the bill. “Democrats should be on board,” Earnest said, arguing a short-term spending resolution would leave the party with “even less leverage.” That message was reiterated in the McDonough meeting, which took place for over an hour in the basement of a Capitol annex.

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York said Thursday afternoon that he had been urged by the White House to support the measure. “Do you throw the baby out with the bath water or don’t you?” he said. “I think that’s what we’re all grappling with.”

The Office of Management and Budget held a call with executive agencies Thursday to discuss preparations for a possible shutdown, which officials believed was unlikely. But Congress still had to pass a short-term bill to push back the government shutdown deadline two days so the Senate would have enough time to pass the bill, as expected.

 

TIME Congress

Democrats Upset Over Spending Bill Keep Vote Close to the Wire

Bossy Warren
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in Washington D.C. in November, 2013 Alex Wong--Getty Images

The bill to keep the government open is in trouble hours from a midnight shutdown-inducing deadline.

The House passed by two votes a measure to clear a legislative hurdle, as House Republican whips twisted the arms of retiring members to change their minds.

Liberals and conservatives oppose the $1.1 trillion government-funding bill. Conservatives oppose the bill for not defunding President Barack Obama’s executive action temporarily deferring deportations for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally. Appropriators have tried to convince them that that strategy doesn’t make any sense, as the primary government program involved is funded primarily through fees instead of the appropriations process.

Progressives like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi oppose it over two provisions that would greatly increase the caps donors can make to political parties and another that would provide government backing to some derivative trading, including risky credit default swaps. Both members are in a full furor; Warren has repeatedly hit the Senate floor to warn of another taxpayer bailout of huge banks in a future recession.

New York Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, took to the floor Thursday to rip the campaign finance change, charging that the provision is “excessive” and will increase by “ten-fold” the limits on contributions to political parties. She lay the blame at both Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Boehner.

Some House Republicans believe that Democrats are simply blowing off steam before they quietly vote for the bill TODAY and leave for the holiday. Others aren’t sure—indeed the House GOP leadership had to delay the final vote Thursday afternoon to give more time to find enough votes—but agree that the Democrats’ opposition proved an discomforting finale to a deeply unpopular 113th Congress.

“I may have been born at night but it wasn’t last night and this was an opportunity for them to put a real dagger in the side of the governing majority,” said Arkansas Republican Rep. Steve Womack. “I think the swaps issue was more of a smokescreen for a larger issue and that was more of a political issue and a statement. It almost happened. It’s kind of an embarrassing moment.”

Womack, who sits on the Appropriations Committee and on a financial services panel, said he didn’t know who inserted the provision to change the major finance reform law Dodd-Frank. The lack of knowledge about certain aspects of the 1,600 bill is widespread among Congressmen; North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows said he voted to advance the bill but was still undecided on how he would vote when push came to shove.

“We’re still reading through it,” he said.

TIME Congress

House Democrats Upset Over Proposed Rollback of Wall Street Regulation

Five Years After Start Of Financial Crisis, Wall Street Continues To Hum
A street sign for Wall Street hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange on September 16, 2013 in New York City. John Moore—Getty Images

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday night that she was “hopeful” the House would pass a bill to avert a government shutdown once lawmakers read the final language. But now it appears that top House Democrats have read the bill, and they’re furious with provisions that roll back the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law passed in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

“Buried in the more than 1,600 pages of the omnibus package Republicans posted in the dead of night are provisions to put hard-working taxpayers back on the hook for Wall Street’s riskiest behavior,” said Pelosi in a statement. “This provision, allowing big banks to gamble with money insured by the FDIC, opens the door to another taxpayer-funded bailout of big banks—forcing middle class families to bear the burden of Wall Street’s mistakes.”

The Dodd-Frank provision in question forces huge commercial banks to “push out” some derivatives trading—like risky credit default swaps—into units that aren’t backed by the federal government’s deposit insurance fund, the FDIC. The top Democrats on the House Budget and the Ways and Means committees, respectively Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Michigan Rep. Sandy Levin, staunchly oppose the provision’s repeal.

“They should be responsible for their actions,” said Levin of the banks involved in such derivatives trading. “This is a terrible mistake to put it in this bill…It should be taken out.”

“This jumps off the page as something that is inexcusable,” he added.

Pelosi’s office blasted out statements by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, FDIC Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calling on Congress to drum up support and media attention to preserve the Dodd-Frank provision. Pelosi’s office also sent out an email from campaign finance groups urging members to vote against the bill, as it triples the caps donors are allowed to give to national parties for presidential nominating conventions, building expenses and election recounts. As the Washington Post noted, that would allow a donor to give the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee a maximum amount of $324,000, which is ten times the current limit. Pelosi’s sentiment that Democrats should get both provisions out of the bill were echoed by Van Hollen and others.

“The combination again speaks to everything that’s wrong with this process—special interest giveaways and more openings for special interest funding [for] the congressional political committees,” said Van Hollen, who would vote no against the bill in its current form. “As to these two provisions, these are news to me.”

“It’s a bad deal for the public,” he added. “You got a 1,600 page bill and they thought they would be able to tuck these provisions in maybe with nobody noticing. But people notice.”

It’s unclear if the Democratic and conservative opposition is so strong that the trillion-dollar appropriations bill won’t pass as is. Van Hollen said that Democratic resistance is “deep and getting deeper.” House conservatives, meanwhile, have stated that the bill doesn’t go far enough in protesting President Obama’s executive action on immigration temporarily deferring deportations for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally. Congress could pass a short-term bill funding the government for a matter of days to avert a shutdown on December 11.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, the top Democratic negotiator for the trillion-dollar legislation, said that the bill was a “monumental achievement” both for Congress and their constituents. Knowing that Democrats’ negotiating position would be weaker next year with Republicans taking over the Senate after the midterm elections, Mikulski told her colleagues to “stay steady.”

TIME Congress

Mark Udall Outlines Secret CIA Torture Review on Senate Floor

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall outlined a secret internal review conducted by former CIA director Leon Panetta on the chamber floor Wednesday, as he delivered a blistering critique of the agency’s torture during the George W. Bush Administration and President Obama Administration’s subsequent efforts to protect the CIA from accountability.

“In my view the Panetta Review is a smoking gun,” said Udall, who has pushed for access to the entire report as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “One disturbing finding: [CIA] Director Brennan and the CIA are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture. In other words, the CIA is lying.”

Udall called again for Brennan to resign and blamed the White House for providing cover for the agency, calling for Obama to “purge” the CIA of high-level officials “instrumental” to the development of the enhanced interrogation program.

“So while the study clearly shows that the CIA’s detention and interrogation program itself was deeply flawed, the deeper more endemic problem lies in a CIA assisted by a White House that continues to try to cover up the truth,” he said. Obama, he charged, has made “no effort” to “rein” Brennan in.

He then made public what he said were some of the key points of the secret review, finding that the agency has lied to its “overseers and the public, destroyed and tried to hold back evidence, spied on the Senate, made false charges against our staff, and lied about torture and the results of torture” without proper accountability:

The Panetta Review found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the President and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques. The Brennan response, in contrast, continues to insist the CIA’s interrogations produced unique intelligence to save lives, yet the Panetta review identifies dozens of documents that include inaccurate information used to justify the use of torture and indicates that the inaccuracies it identifies do not represent an exhaustive list. The Panetta Review further describes how detainees provided intelligence prior to the use of torture against them…It describes how the CIA, contrary to its own representations, often tortured detainees before trying an other approach. It describes how the CIA tortured detainees even when less coercive methods were yielding intelligence. The Panetta Review further identified cases in which the CIA used coercive techniques when it had no basis for determining whether a detainee had critical intelligence at all. In other words, CIA personnel tortured detainees to confirm they didn’t have intelligence, not because they thought they did.

Udall’s remarks came a day after Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee released a summary of its five-year, 6,000-page report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques—that are no longer used—concluding that it was ineffective and brutal, if not at times illegal. The CIA has rebutted those charges.

“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives,” said Brennan in a statement Tuesday. “The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.”

“We also disagree with the Study’s characterization of how CIA briefed the program to the Congress, various entities within the Executive Branch, and the public,” he added. “While we made mistakes, the record does not support the Study’s inference that the Agency systematically and intentionally misled each of these audiences on the effectiveness of the program.”

Udall’s speech is likely the last of his career. He was defeated by Republican Rep. Cory Gardner last month.

TIME Congress

Congress Introduces $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill to Avoid Shutdown

John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in Congress on Nov. 21, 2014 in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

Republicans and Democrats cheered the bill

Congress introduced a massive, $1.1 trillion spending bill Tuesday night, two days before a government shutdown-inducing deadline. It covers almost all aspects of discretionary funding for the federal government, from training and equipping forces to defeat Islamic terrorists in Syria and Iraq to blocking Washington D.C.’s recent ballot measure legalizing marijuana.

Stretching 1,603 pages, the bill will fund almost everything except the Department of Homeland Security through the end of September 2015. Congress will fund DHS through Feb. 27 as Republicans protest President Obama’s executive action on immigration providing temporary deportation relief for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally. With that nod to conservatives, congressional appropriators on both sides of the aisle cheered the bill.

“In today’s era of slam-down politics, we were able to set aside our differences,” said Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski. “Working across the aisle and across the dome, we created compromise without capitulation.”

“This bill will allow us to fulfill our Constitutional duty to responsibly fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers.

The bill provides the President with a few high-profile wins, including $5.4 billion in funding for Ebola research and treatment and $500 million to train and equip foreign forces to fight Islamic terrorists in Syria and Iraq. Yet some key government agencies reflect Republican sway, including a $345.6 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service, and domestic expenditures overall have fallen flat: Politico’s David Rogers (no relation) reports that President Obama will leave office with fewer “real dollars” for such purposes than President George W. Bush.

The wide-ranging bill also, surprisingly, tripled the allowable amount individuals could give to national political parties to support presidential nominating conventions, building expenses and election recounts, infuriating opponents to big money in politics.

“This backroom deal represents everything Americans detest about Washington and about Congress,” wrote Meredith McGehee, the policy director for the Campaign Legal Center in a statement. “Both parties are complicit [in] this dirty deal that was made based on incumbents’ fears of money from outside groups.”

The bill is expected to pass despite the time crunch; Congress will even pass a short-term bill to fund the government for a few extra days if necessary. While some conservatives noted their disgust that the bill does not “defund” the President’s executive action—”To me the old adage ‘he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day’ is a coward,” said Republican Rep. Matt Salmon on Tuesday—enough House Democrats should support the bill to push it forward. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has previously indicated that she would not support funding DHS on a short-term basis, said she was “hopeful” House Democrats could support the bill once they review the “final language.”

Considering the bill’s length and imminent vote, it would be a surprise to few if many members couldn’t complete that task.

TIME intelligence

What Did Top Democrats Know About CIA Interrogation?

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia
The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Va. Larry Downing—Reuters

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee during much of the George W. Bush Administration, has a message for Jose Rodriguez, a former top CIA official in charge of the post-9/11 interrogation program.

“The man’s an idiot,” he told TIME.

In a Washington Post op-ed Friday, Rodriguez accused Rockefeller and other Democrats of hypocrisy for opposing the torture of terrorism suspects after being briefed on such actions and giving their tacit support, a claim Rockefeller clearly felt was ridiculous given his years of investigating the agency’s use of torture and efforts to publicly release the Senate Democrats’ CIA torture report, which finally occurred on Tuesday.

But Rodriguez’s charge of Democratic hypocrisy—shared by many Republicans on Capitol Hill—beg a review of what two top Democratic Congressmen, Rockefeller and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, knew of the CIA’s interrogation program.

In early September 2002, the CIA briefed Pelosi and other top members on the House Intelligence Committee about the enhanced interrogation techniques. The members and staffers “questioned the legality of these techniques if other countries would use them,” but the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center legal staff deleted from a draft memo that sentence, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s new report. Rodriguez, who was CTC director at the time, replied in an email, “short and sweet.”

Pelosi’s definitive response has been the same since 2009, when she said that she was not told in the briefing that waterboarding or any other enhanced methods had already been used—even though they had been. She did recall then that the Administration did say those methods are legal. She added that she heard about the use of some of the EITs in early 2003, but did not speak out due to government secrecy rules and worked to ban the use of torture through legislation and electing a Democratic President in 2008. Rodriguez charges that he briefed Pelosi of the EITs, including waterboarding, had been used in 2002.

One of Rodriguez’s main points on an alleged Democratic flip-flop is that congressional leaders like Rockefeller tacitly supported the interrogation program as they participated in dozens of briefings between 2002 and 2009. Rockefeller took to the Senate floor Tuesday to detail how exasperating those briefings were, calling them “a check box exercise that the Administration planned to use and later did use so they could disingenuously claim that they had—in a phrase I will never forget—‘fully brief the Congress.’” He called his efforts to investigate the CIA interrogation program, which led to Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein’s new study, “the hardest fight I’ve ever been through.”

“The CIA refused to provide me or anybody else with any additional information about the program,” he said of briefings that began in 2003, when he rose to a top post on the Intelligence committee and first learned about some aspects of the interrogation program. “It was absurd,” he added of the 45-minute flip chart presentations led by Vice President Dick Cheney, recalling the drives back with Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts in which they couldn’t speak to each other.

“They refused to offer anything to be of assistance,” he said of the CIA. “The briefings I received offered little or no insight into the CIA’s programs. Questions for follow-ups were rejected and at times I was not allowed to consult with legal counsel.”

Rockefeller added that he hoped that the more than 6,000-page Senate torture report is made public—so far a 500-page executive summary has been—to ensure U.S.-sanctioned torture “never happens again.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser