House votes to 'deem' Ryan budget as being passed by Congress

The House on Tuesday afternoon approved a rule deeming that the House Republican budget approved last month as being passed by both the House and Senate.

Members approved the rule, H.Res. 614, by a mostly party-line vote of 228-184, after a contentious debate in which Democrats accused Republicans of trying to force the budget from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) onto both the House and the Senate.

"We must enact a budget that reflects our nation's values of fairness and opportunity, and puts the American dream in reach for every American," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "Yet, House Republicans simply refuse to listen to what the American people are saying to us. Instead they have decided to pull a stunt here today, a 'deem and pass' of their devastating budget."

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But Republicans said Democrats were making too much of the vote, which they cast as a procedural necessity. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) argued at length that House rules require some budgets to be approved before House committees are allowed to work on appropriations bills for the next fiscal year. He and other Republicans said the so-called "deeming resolution" allows the House to enforce the Ryan budget levels as it proceeds with the 2013 appropriations process.

Bishop specifically rejected Pelosi's comment that the House was "deeming and passing" legislation, something he said Democrats did on the way to passing the 2010 healthcare law.

"We are not deeming something and passing something," Bishop said. "That actually took place in 2010, when Speaker Pelosi presided over House Resolution 1500 that indeed deemed and then passed something.

"This vote does not implement anything," he added later.

Bishop and other Republicans also argued that the failure of the Senate to advance any budget resolution is requiring the House to "deem" the GOP budget as passed, so that this work can continue.

"What we are talking about here is passing something which happened three weeks ago, and now so that we can go forward with a discussion in our committees, deeming it, simply because the Senate, once again, in over 1,000 days, has failed to allow us in the traditional way to move forward.

"We should not be paralyzed by inaction because of their inaction," he added. Of the 1,081 days since a Senate budget was passed, Bishop remarked, "Henry VIII married, divorced and beheaded his wife in less time than that."

Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) noted during debate that passing the rule would still allow House committees to begin work on the 2013 budget, and use the Ryan budget as a guideline. For that reason, he said, Democrats would vote against it.

Democrats spent several minutes revising aspects of the Ryan budget that passed in March, including changing the Medicare program into a health insurance premium support program, and cutting discretionary spending to levels below those agreed to last year in the Budget Control Act.

The deeming resolution does make one change from the Ryan budget, as it changes the savings targets that the House Agriculture and House Financial Services Committees must meet. Specifically, it lowers the amount the Agriculture Committee must save by $490 million, and increases the savings target of the Financial Services Committee by the same amount.

A House aide said this change was related to the timing of spending outlays in programs that each committee oversees, and noted that it does not change the overall level of savings that House committees will look to lock in this year.

The rule was also the rule for a bill easing rules on the use of firearms on federal land, H.R. 4089. With passage of the rule, members were set to begin debate on that bill, and were expected to approve it as early as Tuesday night.

Just before that, however, the House quickly approved H.R. 1815, a bill awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to singer and actress Lena Horne, who died in 2010. Members approved that bill 410-2.

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