With less than two hours to go before an April 8th midnight deadline, congress finally was able to reach an agreement on the budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. The Senate approved the stopgap measure by 11:20 last night and the House followed suit after midnight. A memo was thus released saying that government operations were to continue normally and that a shut down had indeed been averted.
The money for funding the government for all of 2011 thus far has been accomplished by a series of continuing resolutions passed by congress as the Democratically-controlled House and Senate failed to pass a federal budget for 2011 last year, as per their constitutional obligations. It has been reasonably speculated that a budget was not passed then because of the seeming inability of Democrats to refrain from placing excessive spending riders into the budget, and the corresponding political hay that the Republicans would make of their imprudence during the run-up to the 2010 mid-term elections last year. Evidently, the Democrats might as well have gone for broke with the pork laden budget they wanted, as they lost in near historic levels in the House and also nearly gave up control of the Senate to boot due to angry voter turn-out that was captured with the rise of the Tea Party.
In the compromise reached last night between Speaker John Boehner’s House of Representatives and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s senate, $38 Billion will be cut from the remaining expenditures from the 2011 budget. This is significantly less than the original $61 Billion wanted by the G.O.P. members of congress, but was substantially more than the original $6 Billion offered by Democrats.
In some of the major sticking points with the Democrats, the House Republicans had attached two additional riders to the budget bill calling for the elimination of certain Environmental Protection Agency powers regarding the Clean Air Act. The Republican members also restructured a budget rider that rather than cut all federal funds for Planned Parenthood, would take the money given to it and other family planning organizations and give it to state health departments to spread at their discretion. Presumably, states controlled by Republican legislatures would choose not to give that money to Planned Parenthood, in order to reduce federal tax-payer dollars being spent on abortions. This rider was summarily scrapped in the compromise with Harry Reid and the Democrats.
The Republicans were, however, able to get passed the restriction of Washington D.C. taxpayer monies to no longer be used for abortion services within the district. Further, and more significantly, the Republicans in their compromise were able to secure a promise from Harry Reid to allow and bring up a vote in the senate for the two failed riders to defund Planned Parenthood of federal tax payer dollars altogether, and to repeal funding for the inaccurately named Affordable Health Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. These two items are huge, as Harry Reid had refused to even allow a vote in the senate on these items for fear of possible passage by Republican Senators and some of their fellow nervous Democrat colleagues previously.
The next two big showdowns will come when the debate begins in putting together the federal budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins this October 1st, and the federal debt limit which the government will reach this summer, if congress fails to act. Representative Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican and Budget Committee chairman, unveiled his party’s 2012 budget that would cut $5.8 trillion over the next decade by reshaping popular programs like Medicare. This is sure to cause a gargantuan fight with congressional Democrats who are loathe to reduce spending this much and are sure to demonize Republicans as wanting to hurt the poor and minorities with such “extreme” cuts, as Senator Chuck Schumer has already instructed Democrats to use such rhetoric.
All in all, this seems to be a net win for the Republicans and most importantly for Americans. No longer is the debate in congress about how much to spend, but rather on how much spending needs to be cut. The terms of the fight have changed and we are moving in the right direction finally. As the brilliant freshman Florida Representative Alan West said in an interview this morning, “it takes five miles to turn an aircraft carrier”. He is right, and while things are moving slower than many of us conservatives and libertarians would like, the ship of state is indeed finally making that turn to head in the right direction!