House Republicans didn’t get everything they wanted, but in the end they will be able to say their efforts achieved an unprecedented level of spending cuts.
In politics, this is called a win. And winning is everything.
After “a lot of discussion and a long fight” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Congress and the White House agreed in the 11th hour on a deal to avert a shutdown and fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year through September 30.
The deal contains $38.5 billion in spending cuts, including $3 billion in reductions to the Defense Department, a considerable achievement considering the administration had initially requested earlier this year a spending freeze at current levels. There are $17.8 billion in reductions in mandatory spending, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide. In a signal of how much the spending culture has changed on Capitol Hill, the House Appropriations chairman praised the level of spending cuts on the House floor.
“It is a remarkable achievement,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.
Democrats succeeded in removing two controversial riders to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal President Obama’s health care law, but they agreed to hold separate votes on the two matters in order to move the funding bill. The bills are unlikely to pass the Senate—and even if they did, President Obama would veto them—but it would put lawmakers on record on both issues. Further, Republicans earned concessions from the White House to allow for certain studies on the impact of the health care law.
Additionally, Democrats agreed to attach a number of other riders to the resolution, including a provision to allow for an annual audit of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be conducted by the private sector in conjunction with the Government Accountability Office. In exchange for removing Planned Parenthood language, Democrats agreed to reinstate the D.C. abortion ban, which prohibits federal funds to be used for abortion services in the nation’s capital, which has limited self-rule. The legislation would reinstate the limitation beyond fiscal year 2011. They also extracted an agreement to deny the administration the increased funding they sought for the Internal Revenue Service to hire additional agents.
It wasn’t all spending cuts, either. In a personal win for the speaker, negotiators agreed to a provision to revive a D.C. education program opposed by Democrats that provides federal funds for traditional and charter public schools to expand education opportunities for low-income children. Democrats killed the program in 2009, but Boehner has worked behind the scenes this year to reinstate the program.
It will take several days to write the legislative language, move it through the two chambers, and get it to Obama’s desk. Boehner said he expected it to be law by mid-next week. In the meantime, congressional leaders agreed to pass a seventh and final short-term CR through late next week that contains $2 billion in cuts. The Senate passed the short-term funding agreement with unanimous consent and the House passed the bill, 348-70.
Dan Friedman and Billy House contributed.