Government is working again
The American System of government works. The Tea Party advanced the issues, Republican leadership negotiated a good deal for them and the rest of us, and the President came out ahead with a statement on priorities. Let’s keep it moving.
“House approves budget deal that averted shutdown
By Paul Kane, Philip Rucker and William Branigin, Thursday, April 14, 4:04 PM
Eliminating any threat of a government shutdown until the fall, the House on Thursday approved a funding plan that reduces federal agency budgets by more than $38 billion for the second half of the year.
Which cuts, if any, go too far?
On a 260-167 vote, a bipartisan coalition supported the plan, as conservatives revolted over what they considered budgeting gimmicks and liberals opposed the plan as too draconian in its impact on programs that benefit lower-income individuals. Voting for the plan were 179 Republicans and 81 Democrats. Fifty-nine Republicans and 108 Democrats voted against it.
The Senate will take up the measure Thursday evening and is expected to pass it on a large bipartisan vote, sending it to the White House for President Obama’s signature before a deadline of midnight Friday when the current funding resolution expires.
The votes will end the fiscal year 2011 budget process, which was supposed to be wrapped up by last Sept. 30 but instead limped along through a series of seven short-term measures keeping the government open. The last six weeks witnessed an increasingly tense negotiation among Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), leading to an 11th hour compromise last Friday with barely an hour to spare before a government shutdown.
The vote on the 2011 budget came after a newCongressional Budget Office analysis circulated on Capitol Hill, stirring conservative anger. The CBO said the compromise, touted as cutting $38.5 billion from this year’s federal budget, would actually trim $352 million in expected spending, with the rest of the cuts coming in “budget authority.”
At the White House, meanwhile, President Obama met Thursday morning with the chairmen of a presidential deficit reduction commission and renewed his call to “put everything on the table” in efforts to get the nation’s fiscal house in order. He said this should include reining in security spending, overhauling the tax code and allowing the Bush administration’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire.
“We can’t exempt anybody from these efforts,” Obama said as he touted a plan he unveiled Wednesday to cut $4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 12 years. He said he called the meeting with former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) to “solicit their ideas in terms of how we move forward.”
Thursday’s House action was considered a warmup for a series of much larger issues coming down the road that will involve far greater sums of money. The most significant of those battles will be competing budget blueprints for 2012 and beyond. In contrast to Obama’s plan, House Republicans would slash $4.4 trillion in 10 years.
Each side claimed a bit of a victory Thursday, with Boehner taking credit for altering the scope of an issue that Republicans used as a battering ram in their 63-seat pickup in last fall’s midterm elections.
“The spending debate in Washington has turned 180 degrees,” Boehner told reporters. “When we started this year, the president wanted no spending cuts. The president didn’t want a deal, with a long-term fiscal crisis that’s affecting employers in America and those who would create jobs. And look at where the debate is today.”
On Friday, the House will vote on the GOP proposal for the 2012 budget offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Budget Committee chairman.
Democrats who backed the 2011 deal saw it as an agreement that kept spending at reasonable levels but protected some of the most critical programs, while also casting aside most of the policy riders restricting spending on social and environmental issues that Republicans had sought.
“If you cannot compromise, you cannot govern,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said, citing Henry Clay’s 19th century motto, near the close of Thursday’s debate.
Hoyer ended up voting for the deal, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voted against it. Among the Republicans who bucked party leaders and voted no were Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and all three of Virginia’s three freshmen lawmakers.
Boehner and his leadership team spent the final 24 hours leading up to the vote in an effort to desperately explain the intricacies of the federal budget process to the 241-member Republican Conference, particularly the 87 freshmen elected last fall. Heading home Friday for a two-week period in their districts, the lawmakers wanted to understand how to explain the level of spending cuts to their constituents.
At issue was the new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that these latest cuts would reduce actual federal spending only by $352 million — a far cry from the $38 billion in cuts touted by the bill’s supporters. The compromise does cut nearly $38 billion in what’s called “budget authority,” the level of permission to spend federal money, but most of the impact in savings would come years later.
In a floor speech immediately before the vote, Boehner rejected criticism that the reductions in the 2011 bill “are not real cuts.” He called the bill “flawed” but said it was “the best we could get out of a divided government.”
“What this bill does is it stops the bleeding,” he said. “Does it cut enough? No.”
Nevertheless, the difference between Obama’s original 2011 budget plan and the compromise before the House on Thursday “couldn’t be more stark,” Boehner said. “It’s like driving down the highway and throwing your car into reverse.””