Senate Democratic leaders said that if not for their decision to stonewall the defense appropriations process for months, Congress never would have reached a full federal budget deal.

Republican leaders say the defense budget would have been wrapped up months ago if not for those obstructionist moves.

And both sides call this year a success.

The contrasting comments came Friday, shortly after both chambers passed a $1.1 trillion spending deal for fiscal 2016, a move that came 79 days after the official start of the new fiscal year but one that will put off future government shutdown threats until at least next fall.

The omnibus appropriations measure provides $573 billion for defense operations and another $163 billion for Veterans Affairs Department programs. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law in the next few days.

The deal enjoyed bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, despite yearlong fights between party leaders over budget priorities and procedures.

In particular, Senate Democrats repeatedly blocked appropriations legislation to fund defense operations because of Republican attempts to use overseas contingency funds to get around formal spending caps on the regular defense budget while leaving domestic spending caps in place.

Their political opponents decried that decision as insulting to the troops and dangerous for national security.

But on Friday, Rep. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Democrats' assistant minority leader in the House, defended the move as the only way to get a responsible, long-term budget plan.

"That was the strategy that brought everyone to the table," Durbin told reporters. "It led to a budget agreement, an extension of the debt ceiling, and really started us on the path of where we are today."

The omnibus measure represents the first year of a two-year spending outline finalized by congressional leaders and the White House in October.

While still outside the regular order for appropriations bills, the measure earned praise from supporters as proof that lawmakers can keep government running without the brinksmanship that has become commonplace on Capitol Hill.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, was among the critics of the measure, calling it a last-minute mess full of "wasteful, unnecessary, and inappropriate pork-barrel projects."

But his House counterpart, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called it "a responsible down payment on the work that needs to be done in 2016 and beyond to properly resource our military and to protect our nation in a dangerous world."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate Majority Leader, called its passage a success.

Pentagon planners have been clamoring for a budget deal for most of 2015, saying the constant drumbeat of short-term spending extensions and shutdown threats undermines their efforts to start new programs and forecast long-term costs.

Both McConnell and Durbin said they're hopeful the omnibus passage will lead to a smoother appropriations process in 2016, something House leaders also have promised.

The fall budget deal already has set spending levels for all federal agencies in fiscal 2017, including about $576 billion for defense programs and operations. That should mean less haggling and fewer political fights over funding totals.

But Congress also has a shorter legislative calendar next year because of the fall elections, and typically has passed only budget extensions during a change in administrations so as not to handcuff the incoming commander in chief.

The White House is scheduled to offer its fiscal 2017 budget plan in early February. That gives Congress eight months to pass a new budget before the end of fiscal 2016, or 10 months if they wait for another pre-Christmas agreement.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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