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House passes stopgap bill at Democrats’ spending level

- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2012

After fighting all year for a lower spending number, House Republicans reversed course Thursday and passed a bill funding the government at the level Democrats had pushed for all along. The vote that averts the kind of government-shutdown showdowns that have become increasingly frequent.

The 329-91 vote also saw the return of Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin congressman has been on the campaign trail for the past month but returned to the House chamber to rousing applause from his Republican colleagues and even a few Democrats.

Mr. Ryan voted for the stopgap spending bill even though the measure breaks the budget he wrote as chairman of the House Budget Committee, allowing $19 billion more in spending in 2013 than he and his fellow Republicans wanted.

He left the chamber without speaking on the measure, but his party's leaders said they were acting for the sake of bipartisanship in order to head off a shutdown.

"We've got bipartisan agreement on this bill. The House, Senate, both parties, and the White House, have signed off on this bill," said Rep. Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Voting for the bill were 165 Republicans and 164 Democrats, while opposition came chiefly from the GOP. Seventy Republicans voted no, along with 21 Democrats.

Still looming, however, are the automatic "sequestration" cuts to defense and domestic spending scheduled to take effect Jan. 2, according to the terms of last year's debt deal.

"Spending levels are still too high, and this bill does nothing to address that," said Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican with whom Mr. Ryan used to side regularly in voting against spending bills.

The bill extends most 2012 spending levels for the first six months of fiscal 2013 at an annualized rate of $1.047 trillion, which works out to an $8 billion increase in discretionary spending.

That was the level set in last year's debt deal.

But for most of this year, Republicans argued that the number was a top cap, and they fought to lower the level. Mr. Ryan's budget called for $1.028 trillion in discretionary spending.

Democrats objected to that budget, saying it broke the debt deal, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said as long as the GOP wouldn't agree to the higher spending number, there was no reason to write a new budget bill or pass any of the dozen annual spending bills.

In Thursday's vote the GOP conceded on that number — though it comes too late to get the individual spending bills done ahead of Oct. 1, which marks the beginning of fiscal 2013.

"I think it was probably a decision they made to just get it off the table," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Ryan's appearance was highly anticipated. Mrs. Pelosi's office released a "Welcome back" video pointing to the spending cuts Republicans backed in Mr. Ryan's budget, while others joked about his brief time back.

"It's nice to see Paul Ryan back here in Congress. It will be even nicer to see him back here as a full-time member in January," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

When Mr. Ryan walked into the House chamber, Republicans and several Democrats applauded him.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, was particularly vocal and even went over to join what turned into a receiving line for the vice presidential nominee.

Mr. Ryan stayed only long enough to vote for the spending bill and against Democratic alternatives and then departed.

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