|The last continuing spending resolution approved by Congress expires on March 27. Without further action to fund the government, a partial government shutdown could begin by the end of this month.
Earlier this week, some Congress-watchers speculated that House Republican leaders might not have the votes to pass their government funding bill. In fact, the House almost failed to pass a rule governing debate on this bill yesterday, Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill:
Members approved the rule for the bill, H.R. 933, in a 212-197 vote, which is relatively close for a rule vote. Only two Democrats supported the rule, and 16 Republicans voted against it. Seventeen Democrats did not vote - more than the 15-vote margin that allowed the rule to pass.
The vote came after a debate in which Democrats blasted the bill for locking in the $85 billion sequester that took effect on Friday. The bill sets spending levels for all agencies for the rest of 2013, and says these levels are subject to the sequester, which will create a total discretionary spending level of about $984 billion.
The bill also gives the Defense Department flexibility to deal with the sequester, by shifting $10 billion to DOD's operations and maintenance budget. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said he reads that as a sign that Republicans will allow the sequester to take full effect over the next six months.
"The Department of Defense and the VA are given some flexibility to deal with the devastating sequestration cuts, but no other agency is given that tool," McGovern said. "This is clearly, in my opinion, a tacit statement by the majority that they are going to keep this harmful sequester, one of the stupidest things ever to come out of Congress."
Iowa's four U.S. House representatives split on party lines over the rule governing debate on the spending bill: Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted for the rule, while Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Loebsack voted against it.
The GOP's continuing resolution finances the federal government through the end of the 2013 fiscal year on September 30. It also "sets funding for all agencies at levels consistent with the 2011 Budget Control Act, and with the sequester," which went into effect on March 1. House Democrats offered a motion to recommit with instructions, which would have stripped the sequester cuts out of the continuing resolution. That motion failed on a party-line vote. As expected, Braley and Loebsack supported the motion to recommit, while Latham and King voted against it.
On final passage, 53 House Democrats voted for the continuing spending resolution, presumably calculating that the risk of a government shutdown outweighed the harm done by approving a budget with the "sequester" cuts. The roll call was 267 to 151. Latham and King voted for the bill, as did all but 14 House Republicans present. Loebsack voted for the bill as well. Braley was one of the 137 House Democrats to vote agains the spending resolution.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly sent out press releases blasting House Republicans who "just voted in favor of sequester." I received versions targeting both Latham and King, and I enclose the Latham version below. But didn't 53 House Democrats also just vote for the continuing resolution, which would lock in the sequester cuts? Yes, they did--but the DCCC's press release focuses on the party-line vote over the motion to recommit. House Democrats almost unanimously supported that motion, while Republicans voted "against stripping a measure out of the Continuing Resolution that explicitly calls for keeping the indiscriminate cuts of the sequester." That convoluted wording is designed to let Loebsack and dozens of other House Democrats off the hook.
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VOTE ALERT: Congressman Latham Just Voted In Favor of Sequester
Congressman Tom Latham just voted in favor of the sequester - a series of devastating and arbitrary budget cuts that will eliminate 750,000 jobs, force furloughs and throw a wet blanket on the economy. Instead of the sequester, House Democrats have tried to end taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies and tax breaks for millionaires, but Congressman Latham said no.
"The sequester is here and Congressman Tom Latham is one of the few people in the country who thinks it should stay," said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Americans are already seeing job losses, military cutbacks and longer airport lines, but Congressman Latham would rather protect tax breaks for the well-connected than stop the damage to our middle class. The people of Iowa want a balanced solution - but Congressman Latham and his Tea Party extremists said no. There's now no doubt or debate: Congressman Latham voted in favor of the sequester and was unwilling to stop the worst effects of these disastrous cuts on the people of Iowa because tax breaks for Big Oil companies and millionaires are more important to him."
Before today, Democrats have offered multiple times balanced alternatives that would replace the arbitrary sequester approach with a thoughtful and balanced budget plan that cuts spending and eliminates tax breaks for the well-connected in a way that is not harmful to the economy. Each time, House Republicans refused to vote on these plans.
News outlets across the nation have covered the sequester's impact, and below is a sampling of headlines about the impact:
· General: With cuts, Marine Corps will 'cut into bone' [USA Today, 3/4/13]
· Sequester already causing long lines at airports, Napolitano says [CBS News, 3/4/13]
· Former NIH director: The sequester will set back medical science for a generation [Washington Post, 2/21/13]
· College aid cuts will send parents and students scrounging [Reuters, 3/4/13]
Congressman Latham voted against stripping a measure out of the Continuing Resolution that explicitly calls for keeping the indiscriminate cuts of the sequester. [HR 933, Vote #61, 3/06/13]
According to Roll Call newspaper, the Continuing Resolution "Keeps Sequester Cuts in Place" [Roll Call, 3/4/13]
According to the New York Times, "Boehner halts Talks on Cuts, and House G.O.P. Cheers" [New York Times, 3/1/13]
A February 21st USA Today/Pew poll found 76 percent of Americans favor the a balanced approach for addressing the budget deficit while only 19 percent of Americans agree with the approach of Congressional Republicans, to address the deficit through spending cuts alone. [USA Today, 2/21/13]
House Republicans Previously Voted Three Times to Deny Consideration of Replacing the Entire Sequester with a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction.
· The measure was rejected 229-196. [H Res 83, Vote #51, 2/27/13]
· The measure was rejected 229-194. [H Res 66, Vote #41, 2/14/13]
· The measure was rejected 229-188. [H Res 48, Vote #33, 2/5/13]