House Republicans, in a marathon all-night session, cut nearly $61 billion from the 2011 federal budget Saturday with final passage coming just after 4:30 a.m. The package, approved in a 235-189 party-line vote, included measures that would end federal funding of Planned Parenthood and block money for implementation of the health care law.
The budget bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is expected to push back against the reductions -- most of them coming from domestic programs. But on Saturday in the U.S. House, the GOP's large, conservative freshmen class, which pushed leaders for deeper cuts, owned the day. Not a single Democrat voted for the final version of the legislation.
On Friday, the decisions on controversial amendments came in quick succession after the House voted down a measure that would have taken billions of dollars more across the board from federal agencies.
The Planned Parenthood defunding amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), was the subject of three-plus hours of heated debate Thursday night, The Washington Post reported.
Approval of the health care amendment was another big victory for Republicans. The amendment offered by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) would deny new funding for the federal government to administer the new health reform law during the remaining seven months of the 2011 fiscal year.
The tactic is an alternative to outright repeal of the law -- which remains extremely unpopular among Republicans. The GOP majority in the House approved repeal last month, but the bill failed in the Senate. The new bid to withhold taxpayer dollars from implementation of the health law is also bound to face a roadblock in the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority.
Earlier, the House shot down a measure, sponsored by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), that would have trimmed $22 billion on top of $61 billion in cuts already proposed by the GOP, according to the Post. It failed 147 to 281. More than 90 Republicans voted against the amendment, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California.
While the debate Friday was not strictly on party lines, the GOP is dead serious in its zeal to shrink the budget and trim a federal deficit of $1.5 trillion
for 2011. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner issued a strong message to the White House and Democratic lawmakers: go along with the GOP bill to cut the current 2011 budget, or risk a government shutdown in two weeks.
Hours before final passage, Boehner called the budget-cutting "democracy in action." He had dug his heels in and said he would not allow the House to consider a temporary funding resolution to keep the government operating past March 4, when the stopgap measure expires, unless spending is reduced substantially.
"I am not going to move any kind of short-term [measure] at current [spending] levels," Boehner, R-Ohio, said
at a news conference Thursday.
In the Senate, Democratic leaders prefer to approve another extension of the temporary funding measure while the two chambers work out their differences.
Some senators indicated they are willing to work with the GOP on making cuts in the 2011 budget. "There will be some additional cuts, we know that," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer
(D-N.Y.), a senior member of the Senate leadership, the Washington Post reported.
After the House passes its final version of the bill, the debate moves to the Senate where the Democratic majority is certain to balk at some of the Republican-sponsored cuts -- leaving it unclear whether the chambers will be able to agree on something before the temporary funding measure expires and the government runs out of money.
At its core, the House debate reflects a fundamental difference
between the political parties regarding the role of government in public life. Republicans want to demonstrate their conviction that the federal government is inefficient, bloated and must be curtailed to create a more competitive economic climate. Democrats, on the other hand, have argued that government plays a vital role in regulation and safety, and the services it provides are critical to ensuring a well-functioning society.