Washington is feeling and looking more like spring, with several actions blooming this week.
Of course the headline grabber is the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget plan that both the House and Senate approved Thursday and sent to President Obama. He'll sign the measure, thus moving the issue of a government shutdown off the radar screen.
The House first cleared the bill on a 260-167 vote, with Republicans needing to count on more than a few Democrats to help assure passage -- 59 Republicans voted no along with 108 Democrats. Of those voting for the plan, 179 were Republicans and 81 were Democrats. Among the 87 GOP freshmen, 60 voted in favor and 27 against.
The Senate also cleared the plan on an 81-19 vote, with 15 Republicans voting no. The main reason for this opposition from Republicans? They wanted even deeper cuts.
Also, President Obama put pen and ink to paper and signed a bill that would repeal the 1099 reporting provision that was part of the health care reform act. If there was ever an issue that was "guaranteed" in Washington to be approved, it was this one. After all, President Obama mentioned it in his State of the Union message, noting it should be fixed and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack praised former USDA Sec. and now Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) who has tirelessly fought for this to be changed. In the world of Washington, that's about as solid as it gets.
Now the House today turns to the issue of the FY 2012 budget resolution unveiled by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). House action on that GOP-written plan is one thing, but the Senate won't be rubber stamping this one. The Democratic-controlled chamber will have their own thoughts on the spending resolution for the FY that starts Oct. 1.
Then, after lawmakers head out for a two-week spring break, the focus will shift to yet another looming issue -- the U.S. debt ceiling. And that debate is likely to be every bit as contentious as the budget debate was. But this one carries even more significance in terms of the United States position in the world.
In an interesting revelation, President Obama told ABC News that his vote against raising the debt ceiling early in his Senate career was a decision based on politics. Now that he's on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, his view has shifted to one that frankly is much more realistic. Let's hope that realization that politics shouldn't come into play seeps into the House and Senate chambers as the issue nears decision time.
But that is admittedly an awfully strong hope. But then, it is spring in Washington.