While the country focuses on the Tiger Woods scandal and the upcoming holidays, the United States senate is set to pass a filibuster proof end-of-year $1.1 trillion spending that will reward most federal agencies with a generous budget increase. It also includes a loan guarantee program for steel companies, and an improved arbitration process to challenge General Motors' and Chrysler's decisions to close more than 2,000 dealerships.
The $1.1 trillion measure combines much of the year's unfinished budget work - only a $626 billion Pentagon spending measure would remain - into a 1,000-plus-page catchall spending bill that would give Cabinet departments such as Education, Health and Human Services and State increases far exceeding inflation.
After a 60-36 test vote on Friday in which Democrats and a handful of Republicans helped the measure clear another GOP obstacle, the bill was expected to win on Saturday the 60 Senate votes necessary to guarantee passage. A final vote is expected Sunday.
The measure provides spending increases averaging about 10 percent to programs under immediate control of Congress, blending increases for veterans' programs, NASA and the FBI with a pay raise for federal workers and help for car dealers.
It bundles six of the 12 annual spending bills, capping a dysfunctional appropriations process in which House leaders blocked Republicans from debating key issues while Senate Republicans dragged out debates.
Just the $626 billion defense bill would remain. That's being held back to serve as a vehicle to advance must-pass legislation such as the debt increase.