Budget Battle Heats Up as Threat of Shutdown Fades

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  March 21, 2013 at 9:10 AM EST

The U.S. Capitol; photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Capitol. Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Morning Line

With the Senate having advanced a bill Wednesday to avert a government shutdown and the House expected to follow suit Thursday, lawmakers are already embroiled in their next fiscal fight over the 2014 budget.

By a 73 to 26 vote, senators approved a $984 billion stopgap measure to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year in September, leaving in place the lower spending levels installed as part of the automatic reductions in the sequester. But Senate lawmakers made adjustments to the version passed by the House earlier this month, giving additional agencies greater flexibility to administer the cuts, such as allowing money to be shifted to avoid furloughs of food safety inspectors.

The chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., praised the end result. “The House sent us a bill which we felt was skimpy and spartan,” Mikulski said. “We didn’t want brinksmanship politics. We didn’t want ultimatum politics.”

The chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers, R-Ky., told reporters after Wednesday’s vote that the Senate version would likely make it through the House without further changes. “It’s a great success,” Rogers said, according to Reuters.

There appeared to be far less common ground Wednesday as both chambers also debated the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., spoke in favor of the Democratic proposal that seeks to raise $1 trillion in fresh revenues while also trimming spending for health care providers, defense and domestic agencies. The blueprint also calls for eliminating the automatic reductions contained in the sequester.

“The highest priority of our budget is to create the conditions for job creation, economic growth and prosperity built from the middle out, not the top down,” Murray said.

The top Republican on the budget panel, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, dismissed the Democratic proposal because it calls for “more government” and “less commitment to efficiency.” He said lawmakers need to adopt a “budget that balances” and is “oriented toward growth and prosperity.”

Roll Call’s Alan Ota and Niels Lesniewski note that the “main event — a continuous sequence on nonbinding votes known as a vote-a-rama — is expected to begin Friday.” They report that the many votes on amendments often put lawmakers in a politically tough spot.

Across the rotunda Thursday, House Republicans are expected to pass their own budget, a 10-year, $41 trillion spending plan authored by Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which seeks to balance the budget within a decade. The party can afford just 15 defections given that every Democrat is expected to oppose the legislation.

All the fiscal action on Capitol Hill comes more than two weeks before President Barack Obama will reveal his budget, setting the stage for yet another spending showdown after lawmakers return from their two-week Easter recess.

BIDEN: WE’LL KEEP PUSHING ON ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN

Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Mr. Obama will continue the fight to enact a ban on assault weapons as part of a larger piece of legislation, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., won’t include the proposal in gun control legislation the Senate is expected to consider this spring.

Biden outlined the administration’s view in an interview Wednesday with NPR’s Melissa Block on
“All Things Considered.”

“I haven’t given up on this,” Biden said. “I’m still pushing that it pass — we are still pushing that it pass. The same thing was told to me when the first assault weapons ban in ’94 was attached to the Biden crime bill, that it couldn’t possibly pass. It was declared dead several times.”

The NewsHour examined the issue Wednesday after Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a package of gun control measures during an emotional ceremony. Judy Woodruff reported on that legislation and other state efforts as the national measure stalled. She spoke with The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe about the political pressure that led Reid to pull the assault weapons ban.

Watch the segment here or below:

Meanwhile, after pushing for tough limits on magazine capacity, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled Wednesday evening that he’s looking to walk back the newly passed restriction before it takes effect April 15.

Kwame Holman recently sat down in the newsroom with a Second Amendment scholar about her interpretation of gun rights. Watch that here or below:

You can find all of our coverage on this issue here.

LINE ITEMS

  • Julianna Goldman and Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News report from the Middle East that Mr. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to present a united front on goals for peace. Here is our field report from correspondent Margaret Warner. Watch Thursday’s NewsHour for the latest on the trip.

  • The Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten writes that the bipartisan immigration plan in the Senate could double the number of visas for highly skilled workers.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei that the guest worker program has a lot to do with whether a comprehensive effort will pass. “There are elements in organized labor that don’t want one,” he said. “[W]hether we can create a viable guest worker program that protects American workers, but also ensures that in the future [if] we need foreign labor for limited periods of time, we’re able to access that in a legal way. Because if we don’t have a program like that in place, we’re going to have 10 million illegal immigrants here in a decade again.”

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., expressed frustration Wednesday with what he contends is the slow pace of progress on overhauling the country’s immigration system. Leahy said he had urged Mr. Obama to send his own proposal, but that the president had delayed such a move to give a bipartisan group of senators time to develop a plan. “Because we do not yet have legislative language to debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee will not be able to report a comprehensive immigration bill by the end of April, which was my goal,” Leahy said.

  • BuzzFeed’s Rebecca Berg reports that Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said Wednesday that a pathway to citizenship was a “minor detail” when it comes to immigration reform.

  • Bloomberg News’ Hans Nichols reports that Mr. Obama is considering Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to be the next secretary of transportation.

  • Under the headline “Lobbying Without a Trace,” Roll Call’s Kate Ackley has an important story on how “[n]early half of the lobbyists who were registered with Congress in 2011 and then went ‘inactive’ in 2012 remained with the same employer, and many continued to influence public policy.”

  • Nearing the three-year anniversary of Mr. Obama’s landmark health care plan becoming law, Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn takes stock of how it will be used by members on Capitol Hill.

  • A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows Americans know very little about the health care law and that 57 percent wrongly think it includes a public option.

  • A Pew Research Center poll on attitudes toward gay marriage shows the trend moving toward supporting it but not as strongly as the dramatic shift shown in a Washington Post poll released earlier this week.

  • Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser does a where are they now retrospective on the Tea Party Caucus.

  • House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he prays daily for the president and vice president.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told the Associated Press that she intends to seek re-election in 2014 unless something “catastrophic” were to happen to her or a family member.

  • The Republican National Committee raised $5 million in February, thanks to smaller-dollar donors and first-time givers. The RNC has $7.5 million in the bank.

  • Roll Call’s Abby Livingston scoops that the National Republican Congressional Committee raised a record $14.4 million at its annual March dinner.

  • National Journal’s Alex Roarty reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $2.17 million in February after bringing in $1.54 million in January. By contrast, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hauled in $8.5 million in the first two months of 2013.

  • Democrat Rob Zerban will run again against Republican Rep. Paul Ryan in Wisconsin.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., asks his supporters to sign a petition in support of the Voting Rights Act.

  • Huffington Post talks to Republicans who voted against the Iraq War to get their take — and bragging — one decade later.

  • Yahoo News’ Olivier Knox rounds up Vice President Biden’s trip to Vatican City. Knox was the pool reporter for the journey.

  • The president’s limo, known as “The Beast,” broke down Wednesday ahead of the Mr. Obama’s arrival in Israel. The Secret Service said the cause was a mechanical problem and not the wrong type of fuel used, as had been reported by some news outlets.

  • Hotline On Call’s Sarah Mimms scoops that Democrats in West Virginia “may have finally found their unicorn” to holding onto retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s seat.

  • Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., invited his supporters to a small fundraising lunch to discuss the possibility of him making a bid for retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat, which he said he’s giving “serious consideration.”

  • The Hill takes a look at outside groups exploiting loopholes in the “People’s Pledge” to influence the Massachusetts special Senate election.

  • Some lawmakers have offered a bill that would prohibit the term “Redskins” from being trademarked, as the debate over the NFL team’s name expands from the legal system and the court of public opinion to Capitol Hill, the Washington Post’s Ben Pershing reports.

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is writing a book about her 2012 Senate race against former GOP Rep. Todd Akin. No word yet if it will include her awesome diet tips.

  • BuzzFeed analyzes the NCAA tournament brackets of both Rubio and Mr. Obama.

  • New paintings from former President George W. Bush!

  • Today’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA: Many Americans don’t qualify to take time off or simply aren’t covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • In case you missed it, we livestreamed, Mr. Obama’s and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ news conference Thursday morning.

  • Jeffrey Brown looked at the question of chemical weapons and their possible use in Syria with Leonard Spector of the Monterey Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation and David Ignatius of The Washington Post.

  • Hari Sreenivasan kicked off a new series about high-speed broadband in America with New York Times reporter Brian Stelter and Maker Studios co-founder Lisa Donovan. Online, we’re asking: How is broadband reshaping your entertainment time?

  • For Science Wednesday, desk assistant Jaywon Choe marks the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s historic but ultimately failed trek across Antarctica.

  • Ray Suarez interviewed Sampson Davis about his book “Living and Dying in Brick City,” which explores what it’s like being an emergency room doctor in Newark, N.J., given the injuries he sees caused by violence. Watch that here. And Jason Kane has more on the author.

TOP TWEETS

Meena Ganesan, Cassie M. Chew and desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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