House and Senate approve FY 2011 spending bill

The House on Thursday passed a bill reflecting last week's agreement to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2011 by a 260-167 vote in which most Republicans supported it and most Democrats opposed it. The Senate approved the bill hours later by a 81-19 margin.

The White House released a statement from Press Secretary Jay Carney in reaction to the bill's passage.

"As the President said last week, we are pleased that Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, were able to reach an agreement to avert a government shutdown by making significant spending cuts while still investing in our future," it reads.  "Because of this deal, small businesses will continue to receive loans, families will continue to receive mortgages, and hundreds of thousands of government workers and our military personnel will get their paychecks on time."

Although President Obama helped broker the deal and it came with the support of Democratic leaders in Congress, 108 House Democrats voted against it, with 81 yes votes.

Fifty-nine Republicans voted against the measure, a sign that many conservatives are still disappointed that their leadership was not able to negotiate deeper spending cuts. That's also more than the 54 Republicans who voted against a three-week spending resolution in March over complaints that more dramatic spending reductions were not made.

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Members on both sides praised the ability of Congress to come together on an agreement, and both Republicans and Democrats argued in favor of what they called a "flawed" deal.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed that few are happy with the deal, but said little else could be expected given the political split in Congress.

"Is it perfect? No. I'd be the first one to admit that it's flawed," Boehner said. "Well, welcome to divided government."

Boehner said he wishes more cuts could have been achieved, and hinted that more would be coming. "Does it cut enough? No. Do I wish it cut more? Absolutely. And do we need to cut more? Absolutely."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that he would vote for the resolution and called on his colleagues to do the same.

"We have a choice to make," Hoyer said. "That choice is whether we will come together, work together, try to make the best possible agreement that we can make and then move together. I think the American public expects us to do that."


More on the FY 2011 budget deal:
♦ Congress approves measure to cut $39.9B
♦ 108 House Dems defy Obama on vote
♦ Bachmann, Paul among 59 Republicans to vote against
♦ Boehner: 'Welcome to divided government'


Only a handful of Democrats spoke out against the deal, and many more welcomed the ability of Republicans to back away from steeper cuts in H.R. 1, the House-passed spending bill that would have cut $61 billion compared to Obama's budget request instead of the nearly $40 billion agreed to last week.

"It also shows that they're not wedded to H.R. 1," Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) said. "The message goes out that they make adjustments."

Farr and others, such as Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), noted that the compromise agreement in H.R. 1473 restores funding to several programs that were cut in H.R. 1, including nutrition programs for pregnant women and food-safety programs.

Even during the debate, Republican leaders sought to fight off concerns that the eleventh-hour budget deal would not cut the $39.9 billion negotiators advertised. Conservatives criticized the division of cuts between discretionary and mandatory spending, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report late Wednesday that found the legislation shaves only $352 million in non-emergency spending this year.

"I just think it's total nonsense," Boehner said of that analysis. "A cut is a cut. The final agreement cuts nearly $40 billion in budget authority, taking away the license to spend the money, which will result in a deficit savings of an estimated $315 billion over the next decade."

After the House vote, members began consideration of two healthcare resolutions that would amend the spending bill: one to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood and another defund last year's healthcare law. House passage of these resolutions meant little because they were defeated in the Senate a few hours later and will not be included in the final FY 2011 spending bill.

The Senate defeated the Planned Parenthood amendment by a 42 to 58 vote. The House passed that resolution 240-185.

The Senate defeated the bill to defund the healthcare law, 47 to 53. The House passed that resolution 245-189.

Both measures were required to meet a 60-vote threshold in the Senate.

Near the end of the debate, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) made a comment that likely reflects the sentiment of most members, who have been dealing with 2011 spending virtually since the new Congress began.

"I just want this bill over with," he said. The Senate could fulfill that request shortly, as it is expected to take up the bill later Thursday.