Shutdown Averted, House Passes Budget, Debt Ceiling Vote Next
Last Friday night, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and President Obama came to an agreement to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, averting a possible shutdown. On Thursday, the House passed the legislation by a bipartisan vote of 260-167. 59 Republicans voted against the bill, and 81 Democrats voted for it. Hours later, the Senate acted with far less suspense but again on a bipartisan 81-19 roll call. With over six months of the current fiscal year already completed, the funding bill reduces the spending level by nearly $38 billion below what it was when the new Congress began in January, making it the largest one-year cut from the President’s budget request in the nation’s history.
This Friday, the House approved a fiscal year 2012 budget resolution drafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), which imposes $5.8 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. The final tally was 235-193, with four Republicans and every Democrat opposing it. The GOP resolution will not be approved by the Senate, and budget resolutions do not go to the president or hold the force of law. However, Ryan has said that the GOP will deem his budget as the ceiling for spending for 2012. For this reason, the most important aspect of the resolution is the allocation it gives to the Appropriations Committee for next year: $1.019 trillion in non-emergency spending. This number will play a big role in a looming spending fight in the fall. If Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on appropriations spending by September 30, the end of the current fiscal year, the government will shutdown.
Congress will now turn to the issue of raising the so-called “debt ceiling,” or the statutory limit on federal debt. The U.S. government had $14.216 trillion in total debt outstanding as of Monday, and the cap is $14.294 trillion. The U.S. Treasury Department released a statement saying the ceiling is projected to be breached in the next 30 days, although it could make adjustments to postpone default until early July. On Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he wants a clean vote to raise the debt ceiling, but Republicans have insisted they want the vote paired with other budget reform measures.