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House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
Overcoming vocal opposition from both ends of the spectrum, the House of Representatives easily passed a bipartisan budget proposal that aims to prevent another government shutdown for the next two years, clearing the way for it to be approved by the Senate and quickly signed into law by President Obama.
The 332-94 vote capped a drama-filled few days on Capitol Hill, where House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, delivered rare public rebukes to his conservative critics and Democrats cast Republicans as Grinches for not extending expiring unemployment benefits before Christmas.
Despite opposition from conservative groups, 169 Republicans joined 163 Democrats to vote for the plan, which critics said did not address the biggest drivers of spending: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Sixty-two Republicans and 32 Democrats — including the minority party’s second-in-command, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland — voted against the package.
But in the Senate, Republicans queued up to oppose the pact. Senate Democrats need at last five Republicans to cross over for the budget bill to pass, but so far not one has publicly endorsed the plan. What’s more, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, said Senate Republicans plan to filibuster the bill.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration said passage of the House bill was “a positive step forward for the nation and our economy.”
“This bill does not include everything the president called for, but it marks an important moment of bipartisan cooperation and shows Washington can and should stop governing by crisis and both sides can work together to get things done,” a White House statement said.
The vote was a victory for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who negotiated the compromise with Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, Washington Democrat.
Speaking on the House floor before the evening vote, Mr. Ryan said the proposal would bring stability to the budget process, ensure the military was properly funded and stop Congress from lurching from one crisis to another — all without raising taxes.
“This bill saves more than if we did nothing,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that the bill does not go as far as he would like. “It is not near the breadth and the scope of the budget that we passed earlier. But that is how it works in divided government. That is the nature of compromise.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agreed that the bill was modest but called it a step in the right direction.
They said it reduced the deficit and restored some of the across-the-board spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies, which lawmakers claimed were haphazard and had hampered economic growth. The bill raises spending caps by $63 billion — from $967 billion under sequestration to $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 in 2015 — and reduces the deficit by $23 billion over 10 years.
It also raises some fees, including higher security costs for airline passengers, requires new federal workers to pay more for retirement benefits and lowers the cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees younger than 62. It also prevents a 20 percent cut in payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Senate prepares to vote
The proposal now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, indicated Thursday that he has the votes to send it to Mr. Obama for his signature. Several prominent Senate Republicans, however, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have come out against the deal.
“Instead of lurching forward from crisis to crisis, we’re now going to have a two-year appropriations cycle,” Mr. Reid said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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