Government shutdown averted as House approves $4 billion in cuts

Short-term solution grants lawmakers and White House two weeks to set spending levels through Sept. 30th

Topics: U.S. House of Representatives, Budget Showdown, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate, White House,

Government shutdown averted as House approves $4 billion in cutsSenate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D- Nev., talks to the media after a Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)(Credit: AP)

The House passed emergency short-term legislation Tuesday to cut federal spending by $4 billion and avert a government shutdown. Senate Democrats agreed to follow suit, handing Republicans an early victory in their drive to rein in government.

The bill that cleared the House on a bipartisan vote of 335-91 eliminates the threat of a shutdown on March 4, when existing funding authority expires. At the same time, it creates a compressed two-week timeframe for the White House and lawmakers to engage in what looms as a highly contentious negotiation on a follow-up bill to set spending levels through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said the short-term bill would win approval and be ready for President Barack Obama’s signature within 48 hours. “We’ll pass this and then look at funding the government on a long-term basis,” said the Nevada Democrat.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House, which earlier in the day called publicly for an interim measure of up to five weeks.

House Republicans were more eager to draw attention to the bill that was passing with the acquiescence of the White House and Democrats than to the challenge yet ahead.

“Now that congressional Democrats and the administration have expressed an openness for spending cuts, the momentum is there for a long-term measure that starts to finally get our fiscal house in order,” said Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

“Changing the culture of borrowing and spending in Washington is no small feat, but I am heartened by today’s action and it shows that Republicans have started to make the meaningful changes that voters called for in the last election.”

The GOP won control of the House and gained seats in the Senate last fall with the backing of tea party activists demanding deep cuts in federal spending and other steps to reduce the federal government.

On the House floor, Democrats sharply attacked Republicans in the run-up to the vote, but much of their criticism was aimed at an earlier $61 billion package of spending cuts that had cleared on a party-line vote.

“The sooner we can agree on a long-term package of smart cuts — not reckless, arbitrary, job-destroying cuts — the sooner we can stop funding the government in disruptive two-week increments that undermine efficiency and spread economic uncertainty,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, second-ranking in the Democratic leadership.



When it came time to vote, Democrats split, 104 in favor and 85 against. The leadership was similarly divided, Hoyer supporting the legislation and the party’s leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, opposed.

Republicans voted 231-6 in favor.

Hoyer’s reference to reckless cuts was a reach back to the earlier measure, written to satisfy 87 first-term conservative Republicans. It called for $61 billion in cuts while funding the government through Sept. 30, and would also have blocked enactment of proposed federal regulations on an array of private industries and prohibited the use of funds to implement the year-old health care law.

Confronted with a veto threat by Obama and strong opposition in the Senate, House Republicans announced quickly they would follow up with the interim two-week bill to avoid a shutdown while buying more time for compromise talks.

As such, the two-week measure is loaded with symbolism, although the $4 billion in cuts are not particularly controversial. About $2.7 billion was ticketed for earmarked projects, and the balance for education and other programs that Obama had proposed terminating or reducing next year.

The day’s events marked the culmination of a slow-motion retreat on the part of Senate Democrats, who had hoped to use the past few weeks to make the case that House Republicans are radicals bent on closing down the government.

As recently as 10 days ago, Senate Democrats supported a spending freeze at current levels through the end of the fiscal year, while making it known some members of the rank and file wanted to make cuts.

Last Thursday, as House Republicans made known their plan for the short-term bill with $4 billion in relatively non-controversial cuts, the Senate Democrats said they were opposed. They said they would agree to reductions only in a bill that carried the government through Sept. 30.

They switched signals again on Monday, as the White House expressed general support for immediate cuts as part of a bill to prevent any shutdown. Reid met privately with Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio during the day, and several officials said later Democrats floated a proposal for a five-week bill with $8 billion in cuts — less than the $2 billion-per-week level House Republicans want.

Privately, Senate Democratic officials expressed displeasure with the White House, saying the administration had remained above the fray in recent days.

Reid gave no hint of any unhappiness, though, telling reporters he expects Obama — who spoke with Boehner by telephone on Tuesday — to become more involved in the next round of negotiations.

“The president’s going to take this to the American people because the only message that we have from the Republicans is to wipe out programs that are so important to people, especially people who can’t help themselves, the middle class and other programs.”

“So, no, we feel we’re in a good position. I’m hopeful that we can work something out with the Republicans to get this done,” Reid said.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>