The House today passed a sweeping measure to replace deep, across-the-board cuts mandated by last year’s debt ceiling agreement with targeted reductions to entitlement programs for the poor.
Over passionate objections from many Democrats, the bill passed on a 218-199 mostly party-line vote. No Democrats voted for the bill; 16 Republicans voted "no" and one voted "present."
Although the proposal lays out the Republican-preferred method of rolling back the sequester, in reality it will become not much more than a campaign talking point. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has already said he will not take up the measure.
Nonetheless, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan heralded the measure as a win for fiscal prudence.
“When we hear the other side talk about no spending cuts but more tax increases, that’s just going to slow down job creation,” the Wisconsin Republican said on the House floor. “We need to get ourselves out of this debt crisis.”
The reconciliation process, laid out in Ryan’s House-passed budget, instructed six committees to come up with alternate cuts to the sequestration ordered by the debt ceiling deal.
Those committees approved largely partisan cuts, which come from mandatory spending accounts. They would cut funding for things such as food stamps, the health care reform law and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi decried the plan, saying she wished Republicans had worked across the aisle.
“I wish this was a statement on what we could [work] together on,” the California Democrat told reporters today. “Except instead of finding common ground, we find two separate paths.”
The House also approved 247-163 the first appropriations bill of the year today: the Commerce, Justice and science bill, which would spend $51.1 billion in fiscal 2013.
The chamber processed more than 100 amendments and considered more than 60 of them. Of those, 36 were approved.
Some of the amendments that passed were aimed at Attorney General Eric Holder, and they would reduce the Department of Justice’s funding or preclude him from challenging some state immigration laws.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.