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Federal spending bill passes, without Cuba language

The House of Representatives approved a $915 billion federal spending package this afternoon that will keep the government running through Sept. 30 of next year. The Senate is expected to approve the spending plan as soon as Saturday. 

The bill passed 296 to 121. And that was with the vote of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who authored a controversial provision rolling back Cuba travel and remittances to Bush-administration levels. The amendment -- which the White House opposed -- nearly hung up budget negotiations as the federal government neared a shut-down. In the end, the Diaz-Balart proposal was stripped from the bill. 

After the vote, Diaz-Balart put out a statement sputtering with anger at the White House. His amendment was proposed during the committee process with "bipartisan support," he said.

"The approved language has been publicly available since June and was included in the conference report– then later stripped out. The language was not inserted secretly, it was not a surprise, nor the result of sly political gamesmanship," he said.

He then lashed out at President Barack Obama's foreign policy: "President Obama's willingness to shut down the United States government to appease a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism is appalling and inexcusable," he said. "I hope that the American people see that President Obama would deny Americans essential services, halt checks to our seniors and veterans rather than reverse one aspect of his failed policy toward Cuba."

Miami GOP Rep. David Rivera was the only South Florida House member to vote against it -- he, too, backed the Cuba language panned by the White House. Rivera went a step beyond Diaz-Balart, calling the president the "Castro brothers’ best ally and chief lobbyist in Washington."

"My vote against this budget is intended to demonstrate my willingness to continue fighting the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement and unilateral concessions toward the Castro regime," he said.

Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Allen West of Plantation voted for the spending bill, as did Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton voted for it.

The spending bill affects a wide range of federal programs, and incorporates many of the cuts lawmakers agreed to earlier this year. Among the cuts are Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to first responders. The money was cut by $1 billion to $2.4 billion.

In addition, the measure bars money to transfer, release or assist in the transfer or release of Guantanamo Bay detainees "to or within the United States or its territories."

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