Congress passes budgets, Obama's up next
By Larry Dreiling
The House voted 221 to 207 to pass its fiscal year 2014 budget resolution, which provides a spending blueprint for the next 10 years. The vote saw 10 Republicans join all of the Democrats in opposition.
The Senate, meanwhile, has voted 50 to 49 to approve a $3.7 trillion budget blueprint that would raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, trim spending, invest new revenue to build infrastructure and tamp down the federal deficit. The vote saw four Democrats join all the Republicans in opposition.
The House budget resolution that passed cuts farm bill spending by $184 billion over 10 years. Of this total, $135 billion would come from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $31 billion in cuts would be split between commodity program and crop insurance subsidies, and roughly $18 billion would come from cuts to farm bill conservation title spending, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
In contrast to the House budget resolution, the Senate resolution cuts farm bill spending by roughly $23 billion, which would come entirely from commodity and crop insurance spending. Unlike the House’s proposal, this proposal does create a viable path for getting a farm bill done this year because the cuts are smaller and more consistent with the cuts that Senate and the House Agriculture Committee accepted as part of the last year’s farm bill debate.
“Ultimately, the key to this lock is in their (Republican) hands and they’ve got to decide if they want to turn it, and that means taking a balanced approach,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who is his party’s chief budget strategist in the House.
Across the Capitol, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky offered a rebuttal.
He said that under the plan Democrats favor: “We won’t get more jobs or a better economy or sensible reforms to prevent Medicare or Social Security from going bankrupt. And we certainly won’t get a balanced budget.”
Even with the deep differences between the two parties, there’s plenty of time before the next make-or-break moment in divided government’s pursuit of lower deficits.
That won’t come until late July, when Obama probably will be forced to ask Congress for an increase in borrowing authority so the Treasury can finance the nation’s $16 trillion national debt. Republicans have said they will use the request as leverage to gain concessions on spending cuts in Medicare and other benefit programs.
“Going back to the 1950s, debt ceiling requests of presidents have been used to bring about major changes, Gramm-Rudman, the Congressional Review Act, the 1997 Clinton-Republican Congress deficit reduction package, the Budget Control Act,” McConnell said.
“All of those came in the context of the budget—of the request of the president to raise the debt ceiling,” he said.
On April 8, President Barack Obama will present a budget of his own. It is long overdue, to the disappointment of Republicans who had hoped to make it an object of ridicule in the just-completed budget debates in the House and Senate.
Republicans will watch to see what steps, if any, the White House is willing to recommend to slow down the growth of social spending.
David Espo of The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.