House, Senate Pass Bipartisan Budget Deal to Fund Government

BY Quinn Bowman  April 14, 2011 at 3:51 PM EST

Update 6:10 p.m. ET | The Senate passed the budget bill late Thursday afternoon, sending the legislation to President Obama’s desk for a signature. The 81-19 vote ensures the government will remain funded for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The majority of senators voting no were conservative Republicans, like Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah. A few liberal Democrats joined them, including Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

The Senate defeated two measures in votes that were held as part of last Friday’s agreement – a vote to defund Planned Parenthood and a vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law. Both measures failed.

Original post | The last-minute deal reached last Friday to prevent a government shutdown passed its biggest hurdle Thursday when it cleared the House of Representatives, despite fears that conservative House Republicans could scuttle the deal because it did not cut enough money from the federal budget.

Although the bill passed 260-167, comfortably above the 218-vote threshold, Republicans needed 39 Democratic votes to pass an agreement endorsed by House Speaker John Boehner. Fifty-nine Republicans voted against the bill.

The budget plan cuts $38.5 billion in spending from current spending levels and will fund the federal government until October, the end of the fiscal year. It was negotiated late Friday as the government faced a midnight shutdown because House Republicans and Senate Democrats could not agree on exactly what type of funds to cut and whether laws on social issues would be attached to the bill.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Wednesday could have spelled trouble for Republican support of the bill, known as a continuing resolution. The CBO analysis said that the bill would only decrease spending by $352 million, not $38.5 billion.

National Journal explains why:

The astonishing result, according to CBO, is the result of several factors: increases in spending included in the deal, especially at the Defense Department; decisions to draw over half of the savings from recissions, cuts to reserve funds, and mandatory-spending programs; and writing off cuts from funding that might never have been spent.

Boehner dismissed the analysis Thursday.

“We’re cutting 38 and a half billion dollars of money that has already been authorized and appropriated. And anybody who doesn’t believe this money wouldn’t be spent if we don’t act is kidding themselves. Because this is real money and these are real cuts,” he said.

Despite the report, enough Republicans voted for passage. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, did not vote for the measure, nor did Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a high-profile House conservative. They were joined by House liberals, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who refused to say earlier Thursday whether she would support the measure.

The vote, which is expected to pass in the Senate later Thursday, ends a months-long drama on Capitol Hill over how the government would be funded as members of the new Republican majority in the House demanded that $61 billion be cut from current spending levels, but only from non-defense domestic spending. Senate Democrats and President Obama fought against cuts to their priorities, including funding for Planned Parenthood and money to enforce the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill and the landmark Affordable Care Act.

Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., expressed a common sentiment among many members and leaders in the White House and Senate minutes before the vote.

“I just want this bill over with,” he said on the House floor

Now that the government is funded until October, the debate will ratchet up a few notches, as Congress debates the next fiscal year’s budget, as well as a whether or not to raise the debt limit.

The House will vote Friday on Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican budget plan, which would cut trillions in spending over the long term, reduce taxes for wealthier Americans and transform Medicare into a voucher program. President Obama has offered a competing proposal that would maintain the basic framework of Medicare but move to reduce the costs, and would increase taxes for higher income earners.