House Easily Approves Bipartisan Budget Deal

December 12, 2013 11:27 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Vote of 332-94

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The House on Thursday approved a two-year budget deal that turns off $63 billion in sequester spending cuts, a major victory to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.). Hefty majorities in both parties backed the bill in a 332-94 vote.

Summary: The plan sets a $1.012 trillion discretionary spending level for Fiscal Year 2014 — halfway between the $967 billion sequester level and the far-higher number Democrats were seeking. It also sets a $1.014 trillion spending level for 2015. It finds savings through recalculating federal workforce pensions and requiring government employees to contribute more toward retirement, something Democrats were sour on as well.

Breaking the vote down by party, Republicans were split 169-62, while Democrats divided themselves 163-32. Only 62 Republicans defected despite some being critical of the deal. The vote showed declining sway of some conservative groups that said it did too little to cut spending.

Heritage Action, the Club for Growth and other groups said they would negatively score votes in favor of the legislation, but lawmakers increasingly dismissed those threats.

Boehner, who had strongly pushed back at the criticism from the outside groups, previously charged the groups had "lost all credibility." Boehner told his colleagues, "If you're for reducing the budget deficit, then you should be voting for this bill," Boehner said. "If you're for cutting the size of government, you should you be supporting this budget. "If you're for preventing tax increases, you should be voting for this budget. If you're for entitlement reform, you ought to be voting for this budget. These are the things I came here to do, and this budget does them," he said.

Boehner was aided by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who negotiated the budget deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The bill cuts the deficit, avoids tax hikes, and makes permanent reforms to save money, such as stopping welfare checks to criminals, Ryan said.

"Elections have consequences," Ryan added. "And I fundamentally believe — this is my personal opinion, I know it's a slightly partisan thing to say — to really do what we think needs to be done, we're going to have to win some elections... And in the meantime, let's try to make this divided government work."

The bill includes no new tax increases, nor does it make changes to entitlement programs, the biggest drivers of federal spending.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where a vote is expected next week, and the odds good the Senate will clear it.

President Obama has already announced his support for the deal.

Once it is signed into law, Congress will need to approve a massive spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year to keep the government funded. Votes on that legislation are expected after the holiday recess to give appropriators time to produce a bill. New legislation is needed by Jan. 16 to avoid a government shutdown.

Comments: The dysfunctional Congress is beginning to function. Let's hope this is a trend and not an exception. As for the farm bill, House Democrats have added another hurdle with some wanting to add a three-month extension to expiring unemployment benefits to the farm bill measure, and have the costs offset by some of the farm bill savings. Also, I am now told that the food stamp funding cuts total $8.8 billion -- $800 million above prior expectations. Another farm bill update: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored Title I (safety net) proposals and they came within Ag panel staff expectations. The means that there could be an announcement soon of an overall framework agreement, with language and other details released early in 2014, with a vote as early as the second week of January. Farm bill conference principals are meeting this morning, so the announcement could come after they meet.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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