Budget Bill Heads to Obama’s Desk

April 15, 2011


A landmark spending bill—putting the brakes on years of steady growth in domestic appropriations—cleared the House Thursday, but not before Republicans had to reach out to Democrats to save them from defeat because of defections on the right.

The 260-167 high stakes vote posed a first test of whether this Congress can find some middle ground from which to address still more difficult budget issues.

The same Republican divisions could yet be an obstacle in the Senate, but with House passage secured, the joint leadership was hoping to complete action there as well by Thursday night.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stepped forward to support the package together with old Democratic allies on the House Appropriations Committee. Across the aisle, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)—who bore the brunt of the dissent as fellow leaders stood silently by— bluntly told his colleagues: “This is the best we could get out of divided government.”

With 59 Republicans defecting, Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) knew that help was needed, but the dynamic were such that Democrats held back to milk the crisis facing the GOP. Ultimately 81 Democrats joined in support—many of whom had planned to do so all week—but the majority only cast their votes in the final minute.

Indeed, after months of operating from one stop-gap bill to the next, cabinet departments and agencies will be put on more permanent footing—albeit with less money than allowed last year prior to Novembers elections. The new appropriations target— just shy of $1.050 trillion— reflects a nearly $38 billion cut from the rate of spending when this new Congress began in January, and is $78.5 billion below President Barack Obama’s initial requests more than a year ago for fiscal 2011.

Obama and Boehner—together with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reached the deal last Friday. But down to the end, Boehner’s unique role as both speaker and party leader was pivotal as he seemed to swing between embracing Democratic votes and his more partisan goal of keeping a GOP-dominant fight with as few defections as possible.

Tea party conservatives were clearly restless with the deal, and overnight conservative bloggers jumped on new independent cost estimates by the Congressional Budget Office that the deal will have only minimal impact on the deficit before this fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

“Listen this bill is not perfect. It’s no cause for celebration. This is just one step,” Boehner told reporters at a morning press conference. But marking 100 days in the majority, he insisted the GOP’s greatest accomplishment thus far has been shifting the Washington budget debate “180 degrees” to focus on spending reductions.

To read more, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53204.html#ixzz1JWpNsM9P



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