December 12, 2013

House passes bipartisan budget; Boehner blasts Tea Party groups

The 332-94 vote sends the measure to the Senate, where it will almost certainly pass and be sent to President Obama.

By David Espo
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Battle-fatigued and suddenly bipartisan, the House voted Thursday night to ease across-the-board federal spending cuts and prevent future government shutdowns, acting after Speaker John Boehner unleashed a stinging attack on tea party-aligned conservative groups campaigning for the measure’s defeat.

click image to enlarge

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, joined by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes reporters' questions, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. Battle-fatigued and suddenly bipartisan, the House voted Thursday night to ease across-the-board federal spending cuts and prevent future government shutdowns.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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The legislation, backed by the White House, cleared on a vote of 332-94, with lopsided majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike voting in favor. Final passage is expected next week in the Senate.

Maine Rep. Mike Michaud voted in favor, while Rep. Chellie Pingree voted against.

The events in the House gave a light coating of bipartisan cooperation to the end of a bruising year of divided government – memorable for a partial government shutdown, flirtation with an unprecedented Treasury default and gridlock on immigration, gun control and other items on President Barack Obama’s second-term agenda.

In the end, the debate in the House was tame by comparison with Boehner’s criticism of Republican-favoring outside groups that at times have been more of an obstacle to him than Democrats.

“I think they’re misleading their followers,” the Republican speaker said of the groups, whom he pointedly also blamed for last fall’s politically damaging partial government shutdown. “I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility” by opposing legislation before the details are known.

He mentioned no organizations by name, although it appeared he was referring to Heritage Action and Club for Growth, both of which have sought to push the House further to the right than the Republican leadership has been willing to go.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin., a chief Republican architect of the deal, made the conservatives’ case for support. The measure “reduces the deficit by $23 billion. It does not raise taxes and it cuts spending in a smarter way,” said the Budget Committee’s chairman, whose handiwork could well be challenged in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.

The second-ranking Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, joined other party leaders in swinging behind the measure, even though he noted that he represents 62,000 federal workers and said future government employees will pay higher pensions costs because of the bill. “This agreement is better than the alternative” of ever deeper across-the-board cuts, he said.

The agreement, negotiated by Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington – and endorsed by the White House – would set overall spending levels for the current budget year and the one that begins on Oct. 1, 2014. That straightforward action would probably eliminate the possibility of another government shutdown and reduce the opportunity for the periodic brinkmanship of the kind that has flourished in the current three-year era of divided government.

The measure would erase $63 billion in across-the-board cuts set for January and early 2015 on domestic and defense programs, leaving about $140 billion in reductions in place. On the other side of the budget ledger, it projects savings totaling $85 billion over the coming decade, enough to show a deficit reduction of about $23 billion over the 10-year period.

The cuts would be replaced with savings generated from dozens of sources. Among them are higher airline security fees, curbs on the pension benefits of new federal workers and additional costs for corporations whose pensions are guaranteed by the federal government. The measure also would slow the annual cost-of-living increase in benefits for military retirees under the age of 62.

The bill includes a 90-day provision that postpones a 20 percent cut in reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients and replaces it with an increase of one-half of one percent

(Continued on page 2)

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