U.S. House votes to avert government shutdown
Congress approved a funding stopgap Thursday to keep the US government operating through September, while the House backed a Republican blueprint that lays out budget austerity for the next decade.
The two votes came in rapid-fire succession in the House of Representatives ahead of a two-week congressional holiday recess.
The more urgent vote was the so-called continuing resolution, or CR, the $1.2 trillion appropriations bill that would keep the doors of federal agencies open through the remainder of the fiscal year.
The Senate passed the measure on Wednesday, and with the House following suit and making no changes, it now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
Obama must sign the CR into law by March 27 or the government goes into partial shutdown.
With 2013 funding largely resolved, lawmakers turned immediately to the contentious debate over future government spending.
The House passed the budget crafted by Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman and last year’s failed Republican vice presidential nominee, along a mostly party-line vote, 221 to 207.
“We’ve done the hard work of bringing this plan forward,” House Speaker John Boehner told members on the floor, assuring that the Ryan budget “will in fact balance over the next 10 years.”
It would slash federal spending, reforms entitlements, repeal Obama’s landmark healthcare law, and insist on no new taxes, as it aims to cut into the $16 trillion national debt.
However, Democrats blasted the measure as a severe austerity plan that would slow economic growth and dramatically cut funding to key social programs, education and training.
Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, criticized the Ryan plan as “an uncompromising ideological approach to our budget issues.”
But Boehner insisted that “we can’t continue to spend money that we don’t have. It’s as simple as that.”
Democrats, who control the Senate, introduced their own budget blueprint this week, for the first time in four years.
They are pushing what they describe as a balanced approach to deficit reduction, including targeted spending cuts and new tax revenue to help slash the debt.