The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 13, 2013

Budget peace breaking out in Washington

Lopsided majorities of Republicans, Democrats in House vote in favor

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

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.

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.

Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, hailed the vote, saying it “shows Washington can and should stop governing by crisis and both sides can work together to get things done.”

Minutes after the budget action, the House approved a broad military policy bill that aims to curb sexual assaults, cover combat pay for U.S. forces and fund new aircraft and ships. That vote, too, was lopsided, 350-69, sending the bill to the Senate, which plans to adjourn for the year next week.

In the end, the budget 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, R-Wis., a chief GOP 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

The combination of short-term spending increases and long-term savings would send deficits higher for the current budget year and each of the next two, a dramatic departure from the conservative orthodoxy that Republicans have enforced since taking control of the House three years ago.

That was a step too far for many Republicans, including some seeking election to the Senate next year.

Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, one of several Senate hopefuls from his state, said he would vote against the legislation. He said the existing across-the-board cuts “have a tendency to cut out muscle with fat, but it’s still the only tool in town for cutting spending.”

Rep. Tom Cotton, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, announced his opposition, too, and said the legislation “busts the spending caps that took effect just months ago by spending billions now in exchange for supposed long-term spending cuts.”

Other Republicans said despite shortcomings, the bill was the best the party could get in divided government.

“We have Republican and Democratic-controlled houses and as a result no one solution is possible,” said Rep. Darrell Issa of California.  Echoing Boehner’s sentiments, he said of the outside groups, “What do they want, another government shutdown? If so, they ought to run for Congress.”

Democrats were conflicted, but for different reasons.

There was general support for easing across-the-board reductions in programs like education, Head Start and transportation — deficit reduction that Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York called a disaster. Yet Democrats were unhappy that the measure lacked an extension of unemployment benefits due to expire on Dec. 28.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland asked for a separate vote on that issue, but Republicans refused. The expiring program provides benefits to unemployed workers who have been without work for more than 26 weeks. The cost of a one-year extension was put at $25 billion.

The debate on the House floor was overshadowed by Boehner’s comments at his news conference.

The speaker, who famously says he is not affected by stress, has been criticized by some Republicans this year who accuse him of buckling under pressure from outside groups and their allies in the rank and file. He was elected to a second term as speaker in January after an attempt by some rebels to oust him collapsed.

The October shutdown seemed on Boehner’s mind.

“They pushed us into this fight to defund ‘Obamacare’ and to shut down the government. ... That wasn’t exactly the strategy that I had in mind,” he said. “But if you recall, the day before the government reopened, one of the people that — one of these groups stood up and said, well, we never really thought it would work. Are you kidding me?”

Boehner’s remarks were part of a broader response by the Republican establishment as it struggles to counter the influence of organizations like Heritage Action, the Club For Growth, and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

The Senate Republican campaign organization, effectively an extension of the leadership, let it be known it would not give any business to Jamestown Associates, an advertising firm that has worked for the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Republican officials have urged traditional political allies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to step up their involvement in campaigns as a way to counter the influence of tea party-aligned groups, and in one or two cases, have noted with satisfaction that particularly hard-line rebels in the House will face primary challengers next year.

Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, rebuffed Boehner’s accusation that opposition to the legislation was uninformed.

“Everything was widely known about what this deal was. We were concerned it was going to increase spending in the near term, and it does. We were concerned it was going to increase deficits in the near term and it does.”

The Club for Growth issued a statement that took no note of Boehner’s comments. It urged lawmakers to oppose the legislation, calling it “a deliberate attempt to avoid modest but much needed spending cuts in exchange for the promise of spending cuts in the future.”

———

Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this story.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Study: Fist bumps less germy than handshakes

    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

    July 28, 2014

  • Obama Exporting Pollu_time.jpg ‘Not in my backyard’: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad

    As  the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.
    This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine President Barack Obama’s strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem. The contribution of this exported pollution to global warming is not something the administration wants to measure, or even talk about.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S.: Russia fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.
    The images, which came from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, show blast marks where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

    July 28, 2014

  • Plan to simplify health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.
    Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.
    If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.

    July 28, 2014

  • W.Va. Judge: WVU, IMG College deal is OK

    A judge has denied a motion by West Virginia Radio Corp. to toss the media rights contract between West Virginia University and IMG College.
    Media outlets report Monongalia County business court circuit judge Thomas Evans set aside a motion for summary judgment against WVU and others.
    West Virginia Radio was seeking to void any contract entered by WVU and IMG. West Virginia Radio unsuccessfully bid on the contract, then filed a motion for summary judgment in February, claiming school officials violated state procurement laws.
    Evans ruled the code cited by the plaintiffs didn’t apply to the $86.5 million, 12-year agreement reached last year.

    July 28, 2014

  • Powerful storms rip through eastern U.S.

    Powerful storms raking across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday have destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, and there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Lawmakers say Obama too aloof with Congress

    President Barack Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn’t get it when it comes to working with Congress.

    July 27, 2014

  • U.S. faces intelligence hurdles in downing of airliner

    A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March.

    July 27, 2014

  • House approves bill to boost child tax credit for some

    More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads