It took an all-nighter, but the Republican-dominated U.S. House, energized by an aggressive group of conservative freshmen, cut nearly $61 billion from current federal spending Saturday, setting up a budget showdown in the Senate where Democrats hold sway.
Final passage in the House of Representatives came just after 4:30 a.m. in a 235-189 party-line vote. The package, covering the seven months ending Oct. 1, included language that would end federal funding of Planned Parenthood and block money for implementation of the health care law.
But the Senate, which will start work on the bill early next month, is expected to push back against the more drastric reductions -- most of them coming from domestic programs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already called the cuts "draconian," according to the Washington Post. And President Obama -- who last year proposed a 2011 budget of $3.69 trillion -- has vowed to veto any legislation that cuts government operations to the bone.
Even so, in the early morning hours on Saturday, the day belonged to the House GOP's large, agressive group of first-term members, many of them elected with the help of the anti-government-spending tea party movement. The newly elected lawmakers pressured veteran Republican leaders for deeper cuts -- and they prevailed on some big-ticket items. In the end, not a single Democrat voted for the legislation.
Hours before the final roll call, House Speaker John Boehner hailed the budget-cutting process as "democracy in action."
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.
A Planned Parenthood defunding amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), was the subject of three-plus hours of heated debate Thursday night, the Post said.
Denying government money for administration of the new health care reform law was another big victory for Republicans. The amendment offered by Rep. Dennis Rehberg
(R-Mont.) would hold back federal funds 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.
On Friday, the House shot down a measure sponsored by Rep. Jim Jordan
(R-Ohio) that would have trimmed $22 billion on top of $60 billion-plus in cuts already proposed by the GOP. More than 90 Republicans voted against the Jodan 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 was dead serious in its zeal to shrink the budget and shrink a deficit projected at more than $1.5 trillion in 2011
. Speaker 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 on March 4 when a stopgap budget expires.
"I am not going to move any kind of short-term [measure] at current [spending] levels," Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
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 spending plan. But 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 government runs out of money.
At its core, the House debate reflected a fundamental difference
regarding the role of government in public life. Republicans wanted to demonstrate their conviction that Washington is inefficient, bloated and must be curtailed to create a more competitive economic climate. Democrats, in turn, have argued that government plays a vital role in regulation and safety, and that the services it provides are critical to ensuring a well-functioning society.
Filed Under: Senate
, Obama Administration
, Tea Party
, Barack Obama
, John Boehner