This was a vote on final passage of legislation funding federal government programs and agencies through September 2011, and cutting $39 billion from federal programs, including financial aid for low-income college students attending summer semesters, funding for high-speed rail travel, and foreign aid.
The bill—known as a “continuing resolution,” or “CR”—represented an agreement on federal government spending negotiated between President Obama, Senate Democrats, and House Republicans. House Republicans had initially demanded more than $60 billion in spending cuts, as well as a number of “policy riders”—prohibitions on government funding for certain policies. For example, the House Republican leadership had initially insisted on banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood—which provides a wide array of health services for women, including breast cancer screenings, pap smears, and abortions. Democrats refused to agree to this provision, and the Planned Parenthood funding prohibition was not included in the final agreement.
Senate Democrats did agree, however, to hold an up-or-down vote on banning federal funding for the organization at a later date. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also agreed to hold an up-or-down vote on repealing the landmark 2010 health care reform law that was strongly supported by President Obama.
According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration had managed to preserve funding for many programs through “budget tricks.” Specifically, the underlying bill eliminated funding that had been allocated for programs in the previous year, but had never been spent. The AP’s Andrew Taylor reported: “The historic $38 billion in budget cuts resulting from at-times hostile bargaining between Congress and the Obama White House were accomplished in large part by pruning money left over from previous years… 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, according to new details of the legislation released Tuesday morning.”
While the budget agreement also eliminated summer semester Pell Grants for low-income college students, it preserved the full grant ($5,500) for the regular school year despite Republican efforts to reduce the overall award.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) urged support for the bill: “This final CR makes nearly $40 billion of real spending cuts compared to fiscal year 2010 levels while funding the government's critical services and programs and supporting our Nation's troops for the rest of this fiscal year. After weeks of hard fought negotiations, all sides were able to come together in this final agreement to find common ground and take steps to help balance our budget. This legislation is a bold move for Congress, one that points us in the right direction on Federal spending. Never before has any Congress made dramatic cuts such as these that are in this final bill. The near $40 billion reduction in non-defense spending is tens of billions of dollars larger than any other cut in history and is the result of this new Republican majority's commitment to bring about real change in the way Washington spends the people's money.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) also supported the bill, arguing that while it was far from perfect, it was preferable to a government shutdown: “…Politics is the art of compromise, and this continuing resolution is the epitome of compromise. Members on the other side of the aisle dislike many aspects of this deal, as many Members on this side of the aisle dislike other aspects of this deal. The compromise reached by the negotiators produced a bill that was imperfect at best. However, it was the responsible thing to do with a government shutdown looming.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) opposed the bill: “ I rise in strong opposition to this continuing resolution. Budgets are moral documents that reflect who we are as a nation. They're not just about dollars and cents. These cuts won't create jobs, foster economic opportunity, or provide pathways out of poverty. Instead, this bill eliminates billions in investments in our workforce, our transportation infrastructure, our small businesses and, most importantly, in our people. It's a bold assault on millions of people who rely on our safety net. These budget cuts and warped priorities should be a moral outrage to every member of this body.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) also opposed the bill: “To those celebrating the depth and severity of the Republican budget cuts, allow me to highlight a few uncomfortable truths. This legislation won't create jobs. It won't improve America's long-term fiscal outlook. And it certainly won't make life any easier for the working families who have borne the brunt of the worst recession since the 1930s. My Republican colleagues should acknowledge what mainstream economists have maintained for years: that the anemic 18 percent of the budget we allocate to social programs isn't a threat to our national solvency. We should reject the false choice between repairing our finances and preserving our social safety net. Shrinking the national debt doesn't require starving programs that provide for the poor, protect our planet and empower our young people.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 260-167. Voting “yea” were 179 Republicans and 81 Democrats. 108 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 59 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation funding federal government programs and agencies through September 2011, and cutting $39 billion from federal programs, including financial aid for low-income college students attending summer semesters, funding for high-speed rail travel, and foreign aid. Following House passage, the Senate also passed the bill, thereby enabling President Obama to sign it into law.