The mood among
Elections have consequences, Democratic negotiators said as they spent much of the day defending the deals they cut with
"I say to my colleagues: Stay steady; stay strong," said Sen.
"You know, sometimes you give a little, you take a little," she said.
As is typically the case with must-pass money bills, the current appropriations measure, which is necessary to prevent a government shutdown, not only sets spending levels but also includes a host of substantive provisions tacked on by influential lawmakers.
Democratic leaders said they had stopped dozens of Republican proposals -- to restrict abortions, loosen rules on mountain-top coal mining, enable ivory imports and expand gun rights -- in return for the ones they did agree to.
They said that compromise was tough, but that leaving decisions to next year, when Republicans will have a majority in both houses, would have been worse for Democratic priorities.
Those arguments did not soothe critics of the 1,603-page bill that is making its way toward a House vote on Thursday, with the Senate expected to follow by week's end.
A coalition of liberal lawmakers, led by Sen.
The measure would loosen rules on certain types of financial swaps by banks -- deals that were at the heart of the 2008 financial meltdown. The rules were adopted under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and have been a major target for Republicans.
"The American people did not send us here to work for Wall Street banks," said Warren, a potential 2016 presidential contender. "They sent us here to work for them."
Warren and Rep.
But changes at this stage, with just days remaining before
Democrats aren't the only ones upset. The bill fails to stop Obamacare or the president's move to shield from deportation up to 5 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
As a result, some conservative Republicans will not vote for it, meaning that House Speaker
That gives Democrats some leverage, but only a limited amount.
"We must get them out," she said.
But it was unclear whether Pelosi would try to block any Democrats from supporting the bill. Last summer, 70 House Democrats voted for a separate piece of legislation that would have weakened the swaps rule.
What may have been more alarming for Democrats than the provisions in the bill was the preview it offered of GOP priorities for next year.
Democratic leaders realized this was their best chance to cut a deal before Republicans take control.
Republicans underscored that point. Had he been at the negotiating table, "it would have been open season on Dodd-Frank," said Rep.
Still, the deal is a tough one for Democrats to accept. Half of the package goes to military spending, under previously agreed-to spending caps, with the remainder for other domestic accounts.
New money goes largely overseas -- to fight the Ebola crisis and Islamic State militants.
Many domestic programs will see cuts -- including a $60-million reduction to the EPA's budget, which will cut funds by 21% since 2010, when Republicans took control of the House.
The package guts some other Democratic priorities: Regulations to limit sodium in school kids' lunches were blocked; money to pursue endangered status for the sage grouse was scrapped; and there will be no funds for high-speed rail, including the line being developed between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Still, said an aide to Mikulski, whatever the Republican Congress would have produced next year would be "10 times worse" for Democrats.
"We knocked so many bad things out of this," the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.