Congress Moves to Finally Approve 2013 Budget

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP) House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appears before the House Rules Committee to testify on his party'€™s budget proposal, at the Capitol on Monday. He is joined at left by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking member on the House Budget Committee.
By ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON -- Congress is finally cleaning up its unfinished budget business for the long-underway 2013 budget year with a bipartisan government-wide funding bill, even as the combatants in the House and Senate gear up for votes this week on largely symbolic measures outlining stark differences between Democrats and Republicans about how to fix the nation's long-term deficit woes.

The Senate is positioned to approve the catchall spending bill Tuesday after it cleared a procedural hurdle Monday by a strong 63-35 vote. The House, which approved a narrower version two weeks ago, is expected to quickly clear the measure and ship it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

On a separate track, the GOP-controlled House and Democratic Senate are gearing up for votes this week on sharply different budget blueprints for next year and beyond. The dueling, non-binding blueprints veer off in opposite directions at the same time President Barack Obama seeks to nurture a future compromise blending new tax revenues with spending cuts beyond what his Democratic allies are willing to offer now.

The rival House and Senate budgets for the future are party-defining documents with zero chance of making their way into law as written, given the division of power in Washington, where Democrats control the White House and Senate and conservative Republicans dominate the House.

House Republicans are moving first with a plan sharply slashing health care for the poor, budgets for domestic agencies like the FBI and the National Park Service, and safety net programs like food stamps. Senate Democrats are countering with a mostly stand-pat approach that hikes taxes by almost $1 trillion over a decade while reversing already-enacted across-the-board spending cuts that are slamming both the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

Balanced Budget Promise

The House budget measure, if enacted into law, promises a balanced ledger by the end of a decade; the Senate budget would leave significantly larger deficits but stabilize the national debt as a share of the economy, a measure that economists say is essential to avoiding a debt crisis like Greece and other European nations have experienced.

Avoiding a government shutdown this year, however, required a more delicate approach on the government-wide funding bill.

Republicans controlling the House pushed a catchall spending measure repairing Pentagon accounts devoted to military readiness and training, as well as veterans programs and several initiatives like modernizing the nation's nuclear arsenal. Senate Democrats countered with full-year, line-by-line budgets for the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, among others. All agencies would be subject to across-the-board cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 8 percent to the Pentagon.

Other agencies, including those responsible for implementing Obama's health-care plan and an overhaul of Wall Street regulation, would be denied increases and run on autopilot with last year's budgets in place, subject to the across-the-board cuts.

The catchall bill advanced on a 63-35 procedural vote that sets up a vote Tuesday to pass the measure and send it back to the House, which is likely to clear it later this week for Obama's signature.

Preventing a Government Shutdown

While top Senate leaders like No. 1 Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada focused on the big picture -- preventing a government shutdown -- rank-and-file senators were sweating the small stuff, focusing on local concerns like keeping meat inspectors on the job, preventing furloughs at rural airports and trying to ease layoffs at Army depots.

But 10 Republicans, mostly members of the appropriations committee, joined with Democrats to send the measure over the 60-vote hurdle set by Republicans, probably blocking amendments sought by senators in both parties.

Passage of the huge spending measure would draw to a close a mostly overlooked battle between House Republicans and Obama and his Senate Democratic allies over the annual spending bills required to fund federal agency operations, paving the way for Congress to turn away from the current budget year and resume battling over the future.

Looking ahead, the latest plan crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., generally resembles prior ones, relying on higher tax revenues enacted in January and improved Medicare cost estimates -- along with $4.6 trillion in spending cuts over a decade -- to promise a balanced budget in 10 years.

The budget counterproposal from Senate Democrats would repeal the sequester cuts at a cost of $1.2 trillion over a decade and blends about $1 trillion in modest cuts to health care providers, the Pentagon, domestic agencies and interest payments on the debt with an equal amount in new revenue claimed by closing tax breaks. The net result would cut about $600 billion from the deficit over 10 years.


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Rob

Sorry for the duplicate posts. I keep getting an error message saying it is not posting but when I refreshed the page just now - I saw that it had. You gotta love technology.

March 20 2013 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob

Don't hold your breath that they will agree on a compromise spending bill next year. When one party has staked out budget cuts and the other states there is no budget problem that translates to no blueprint. Anyone who thinks there is no spending problem has their head buried in the sand. Spouse says to partner, "Why did you buy that new care, you know we had to pay some bills with the credit card last month and the credit card balance is growing?", Reply, "Don't worry we won't reach our limit on that card for another two years so we don't have a problem now." Sound familiar? Or how about this one - "What do you mean I have too much in the budget for movies? I was going to double what I spent last year by spending another $100 this year but I thought I would cut my budget and only raise it $90, that is a ten percent cut!"

March 20 2013 at 10:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
todfrapri

How to balance the Budget.
Texas Wants To Secede...Texas is one of the BIGGEST Welfare states in our Union. 40% of its Bills are paid for by the US Government.
The New Sequester should have cross the board cuts..
The definition should be..
No State should receive more than 80% of what it pays in taxes.. Let them pay their own bills.
That would be a good start.
Man those Republicans would be running for the hills if that was the consequence.

March 19 2013 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to todfrapri's comment
tobytina0011

Hey dumbas. Texas is the largest state in the US. of course the number would be more Texas gets 38%. Guess what NY gets Mr im so bright? 35% !!! Get you facts staright before you start spouting off half truths and out right lies. IL gets 34%. Wv gets 34%.Just incase you are to slow to know this Texas is the size of all the states list above if not bigger

March 19 2013 at 4:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
antoniocastellano

Obama hasn't done a budget in 4 + years, he's not interested in balancing anything. His only interest is keep on borrowing and printing money. I used the think that he was just 'wrong', now, I believe he wants to "transform" our country, and turn it into a crappy European like socialist nation. There's NO WAY he'll sign any budget, unless it calls for another 20 trillion borrowed from China.

March 19 2013 at 1:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scottee

the budget should be balanced, right?
they should only spend what they collect,, right?

March 19 2013 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob

Don't hold your breath that they will agree on a compromise spending bill next year. When one party has staked out budget cuts and the other states there is no budget problem that translates to no blueprint. Anyone who thinks there is no spending problem has their head buried in the sand. Spouse says to partner, "Why did you buy that new care, you know we had to pay some bills with the credit card last month and the credit card balance is growing?", Reply, "Don't worry we won't reach our limit on that card for another two years so we don't have a problem now." Sound familiar?

March 19 2013 at 12:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
paddleman1928

if it is passed by both houses and signed by the prez it will be the first in about 4 years. Don't hold your breath that it will be enacted into law.

March 19 2013 at 11:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rrusrjr2

$60 billion reduction per year for the next 10 years proposed by the democrats. Be still my heart. Every ploy by the democrats to fake their sheep into thinking this is hard economic action, makes me laugh. The democrats have no conscience for those of us taxpayers footing the bills. Their game goes very well with their takers, the ones basking in having gamed their next door neighbor into paying while they just loaf.

March 19 2013 at 8:56 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply