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US Congress Ends 2015 With Rare Show of Bipartisanship


Washington is ending the year free of the fiscal drama and hyper-partisanship that so often plagues the city.

Congress adjourned until January after Republicans and Democrats worked in concert to fund the U.S. government, reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, and maintain and expand the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Friday, the House and Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that was the product of months of negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House.

“As we end the year, I think by any objective standard, it’s been a year of significant accomplishment,” said the Senate’s majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell.

'Ending year on a high note'

“I do want to thank Congress for ending the year on a high note,” said President Barack Obama. “It is a budget that, as I insisted, invests in our military and our middle class, without ideological provisions that would have weakened Wall Street reform or rules on big polluters.”

FILE - President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the White House Brady Press Briefing Room in Washington, Dec. 18, 2015.

FILE - President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the White House Brady Press Briefing Room in Washington, Dec. 18, 2015.

Lawmakers of both parties found something to praise. Republicans cheered an end to a 40-year ban on U.S. oil exports.

“By lifting the ban, the United States can offer our friends a chance to diversify their energy supplies and enhance their energy security, and avoid people like (Russian President) Vladimir Putin the opportunity to use oil and gas and energy as a weapon,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn.

Domestic funding

Democrats cheered boosts in domestic funding that match higher military expenditures.

Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey highlighted increased funding for medical research.

“In our communities, we have people who depend on this, whether they suffer from cancer or Alzheimer’s (disease) or autism or heart disease,” Lowey said.

Not everyone was overjoyed. Some bemoaned a bill that rank-and-file lawmakers barely had time to read before casting their votes.

FILE - House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. listens as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 9, 2015, before Ryan signed legislation that changes how the nation's public schools are evaluated, rewriting the landmark N

FILE - House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. listens as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 9, 2015, before Ryan signed legislation that changes how the nation's public schools are evaluated, rewriting the landmark N

“A small handful of leaders from the two parties got together behind closed doors to decide what the nation’s taxing and spending policies should be for the next year,” said Republican Senator Mike Lee. “This is not how a self-governing or a self-respecting institution operates.”

Bipartisanship hailed

But most lawmakers went home for the holidays hailing bipartisanship, McConnell took a moment to praise individual Democrats who helped get legislation to the president’s desk.

“Having the cooperation of the other side in a body that requires 60 (votes) to do most things is essential and the way you get a good result in the Senate,” McConnell said.

“We created a positive environment for positive change, and that made all the difference in the world,” said Democratic Senator Richard Durbin. “I hope that it can continue next year. We have a lot more to do.”

Bipartisanship will be put to the test in 2016, an election year. Democrats aim to take control of one or both houses of Congress while retaining the White House, while Republicans hope to keep their majorities in Congress and win the presidency.

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