Congress Passes FY 2011 Budget Accord

The House and Senate passed the compromise legislation to finance the Federal government for the balance FY 2011, with 59 House Republicans breaking ranks to vote against the deal. The overall vote in the House was 260-167. Eighty-one Democrats gave House Speaker John Boehner the votes needed for the bill's passage. 

In the Senate, the vote was 81-19, with dissenting votes mostly coming from more conservative Republicans. In the Senate, 48 Democrats, 32 Republicans and independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut voted in favor.

Vermont's Bernie Sanders voted no proving the dictum that politics does indeed make for odd bedfellows. Three Senate Democrats voted no: Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Carl Levin of Michigan. The deal struck by the White House, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cut $2 billion in funding for non-profit healthcare cooperatives which was intended to function as a weaker version of the public option. These were much championed by Senator Sanders. Also cut were Senator Wyden's provision that would have allowed low-income earners to opt out of employer-sponsored health insurance to purchase insurance on the new exchanges. Both measures were part of the healthcare cost containment focus in the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Rand Paul, Kentucky's libertarian Senator, despite threats to block the bill earlier in the week passed on filibustering the bill and instead allowed a quick vote following House passage a few hours earlier. Other Republicans voting no included Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill by tomorrow, but the debate in the nation's capital has already moved on to bigger spending battles, with a critical vote to raise the Federal debt limit, the FY12 budget and long-term deficit reduction all in play.

Twenty-eight out of the 87 freshman Republicans in the House voted no. A number of Tea Party backed freshmen said they were disappointed by the deal struck last week by House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the White House. Among the Republicans who voted no were Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan, Rep. Allen West of Florida, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Rep. Ben Quayle of Arizona, Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota. Huizenga, West and Quayle are freshmen. Paul and Bachmann are believed to hold Presidential aspirations while Mike Pence of Indiana is seen as possible Vice Presidential material.

The vote divided the Democratic leadership in the House with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voting no but the Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland voted to support the measure.

More on this from the National Journal.

What Obama Did Save

It is not unsubstantial. From the Associated Press:

A close look at the government shutdown-dodging agreement to cut federal spending by $38 billion reveals that lawmakers significantly eased the fiscal pain by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.

Such moves permitted Obama to save favorite programs — Pell grants for poor college students, health research and "Race to the Top" aid for public schools, among others — from Republican knives.

And big holes in foreign aid and Environmental Protection Agency accounts were patched in large part. Republicans also gave up politically treacherous cuts to the Agriculture Department's food inspection program.

The full details of Friday's agreement weren't being released until overnight as it was officially submitted to the House. But the picture already emerging is of legislation financed with a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially "score" as savings to pay for spending elsewhere, but that often have little to no actual impact on the deficit.

As a result of the legerdemain, Obama was able to reverse many of the cuts passed by House Republicans in February when the chamber passed a bill slashing this year's budget by more than $60 billion. In doing so, the White House protected favorites like the Head Start early learning program, while maintaining the maximum Pell grant of $5,550 and funding for Obama's "Race to the Top" initiative that provides grants to better-performing schools.

Still the two DC related riders and the appalling sacrifice of the not-for-profit healthcare centers are hard to swallow. The Pentagon had $2 billion cut from its budget meanwhile the entire $2 billion slated for these non-profit healthcare centers was cut. Recall that these centers were a consolation prize for not including a public option in the Affordable Care Act of 2010. 

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