House Averts Government Shutdown
Short-Term Measure Follows Vote on GOP’s Budget Plan ‘
Washington — Congress has approved a short-term funding measure, averting the chance of a federal government shutdown next week. But a broader battle over taxes and spending for the year is only just beginning.
The House gave final approval yesterday, in a bipartisan 318 to 109 vote, to a continuing funding resolution that outlines spending through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. It assures that the government will stay open when the current funding measure expires March 27.
The House vote came a day after the Senate approved the bill. It now goes to President Obama for his signature, ending a relatively smooth and drama-free process for a Congress that has repeatedly deadlocked on spending issues. But it only covers the next six months.
Lawmakers are still debating how much to tax and spend for the years to come. Yesterday, the House also approved a budget blueprint by Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in a mostly partisan 221 to 207 vote. Ten Republicans joined House Democrats in opposing the Ryan budget measure.
Ryan’s plan calls for balancing the budget over the decade by slicing $5 trillion from future spending, including by block-granting programs for the poor and overhauling Medicare for people age 54 and younger. The plan would also incorporate $600 billion in tax hikes approved by Congress over Republican objections as part of the year-end fiscal cliff fight.
Conservatives had insisted that the Ryan plan lock in a balanced budget within the next 10 years. His spending proposals for the past two years took at least 30 years to bring spending into line with government revenue.
“They are sticking to the status quo — more taxing, more spending, more borrowing,” Ryan said on the House floor yesterday morning, referring to Democrats and urging passage of his plan. “This budget recognizes that concern for the poor is not measured by how much money we spend in Washington but instead how many people we get out of poverty.”
Democrats slammed Ryan’s plan as too austere — particularly its proposal to end Medicare as a guaranteed benefit for seniors. They said voters defeated that idea in the November 2012 election.
“The American people voted, and they resoundingly rejected the approach that is now taken once again, for the third year in a row, in this Republican budget,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
The Ryan proposal clashes dramatically with a budget proposal offered by Senate Democrats.
The first budget put forward by Senate Democrats in three years, the plan authored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would raise taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade in an effort to stabilize deficits. It would not balance the budget, however.
Trying to reconcile those two visions will consume Washington in the coming months, as the nation again hits the federal borrowing limit this summer, requiring congressional action to keep the country from defaulting on its spending obligations.
By making only a few changes to the automatic spending cuts, however, the budget does little to stop the furloughs of more than a million federal employees between April and the end of the fiscal year.