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Spending bill had no fans in Mass. delegation

WASHINGTON — Hours after Congress released its $1.1 trillion spending bill last week, Senator Edward J. Markey called it “a huge job-creating budget for Massachusetts,” and “the first off-shore wind budget in the history of the United States.”

Yet Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, voted against the bill late Saturday night. It was an awkward situation. Markey, who is seldom shy about his legislative victories, released press statements on two separate topics Sunday, but neither of them addressed the 1,603-page spending bill.

In fact, no member of the state’s all-Democratic delegation voted for the bill, despite the presence of several measures they had fought for, including $100 million toward the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford, and the preservation of a $150 million loan guarantee for Cape Wind, both championed by Markey.

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A variety of factors, including Senator Elizabeth Warren’s crusade against a provision that weakened the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, put pressure on the state’s liberal delegation to oppose the final product. The House and Senate voted for the bill last week, and President Obama has said he will sign it.

Markey said Monday that he had not yet read the full bill when he made his initial positive comments about it and was not “fully aware of all of the other numerous giveaways” to Wall Street and the coal industry.

“At the end of the day, the repeal of that Dodd-Frank provision, the watering down of environmental protections that were in the bill, the dramatic change in pension protections, all created a pile of bad policy that made it impossible for me to vote for the total bill,” Markey said.

Representative Joseph Kennedy III also voted against the bill, even though it included a $300 million manufacturing provision that he had co-authored, as well as $22.3 million for an MIT fusion experiment that is slated to shut down in 2016.

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“There’s a bunch of good stuff that was actually in that bill. The problem was there was also enough bad stuff to counterbalance and make it unpalatable,” Kennedy said in an interview Monday.

Kennedy seemed especially proud of his work on the bill, at first. He released a statement Wednesday noting that it included his provision to build manufacturing institutes across the United States.

After casting a vote against the bill Thursday, Kennedy released a statement explaining that he opposed the spending bill because it included money for military aid to Syrian rebels, it raised campaign contribution limits to political parties, and it weakened Dodd-Frank.

He blamed the breakdown in the process for forcing him to choose between funding a military effort that has neither been debated nor approved, and voting for a measure that he worked hard to include.

“It’s really frustrating and sad,” he said. His manufacturing bill was initially approved as a stand-alone measure in the House, drawing bipartisan support. But it was blocked in the Senate. Kennedy said he lamented that the only way to advance the measure was through a large spending bill that was considered “must-pass.”

Representative Michael E. Capuano, who serves on the transportation committee and represents the Somerville district that would benefit most from the $100 million set aside to boost the Green Line expansion, was the only member of the Massachusetts delegation who missed the vote. His wife was in the hospital following ankle surgery. But his office later said he would have joined his colleagues in opposing the bill.

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After Congress in 2010 banned so-called earmarks that enabled members to direct money for favorite projects, large spending bills contain far fewer pet projects than they once did. Nonetheless, the spending bill did include money for several priorities favored by members of the Massachusetts delegation.

Calls from constituents tilted against the overall bill, said Representative Richard E. Neal, a Springfield Democrat.

Last month, Neal, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation, said there used to be “the rule” on the tax committee on which he serves that says members who fought for provisions in a bill would vote for the overall package.

“If you got something and did not vote for the entire package, you would not get something again,” he said in a speech to the New England Council, according to remarks posted on the group’s website. “Now, too many people try to have it both ways, and that prevents the process from working.”

Neal said he did not lobby for any special provisions in the spending measure. Neal voted against it because of a provision that would allow some employers to cut pension plans for current retirees and because the process of approving it was flawed, he said. He said he did not think the old rule applied to this bill because House leaders told members of Congress to vote their conscience.


Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com.

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