It's a landslide: Senate passes $4B in cuts
As The Post reported, the Senate today overwhelmingly approved by a 91-9 vote the two-week extension of the continuing resolution, thereby preventing a government shutdown. The no's were cast by a mix of far-right and far-left senators, in other words, those for whom ideology trumps governance:
Among the nine "no" votes on the two-week plan Wednesday were five Republicans -- Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho) and Mike Crapo (Idaho) -- three Democrats -- Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) -- and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
Some voting against the measure criticized it for not making deep enough cuts. Lee, a freshman and founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's vote that he opposed the two-week plan, which was put forth by House Republicans late last week, calling it "a disappointing failure on the part of both parties to seriously address the economic meltdown we face from our massive deficit and growing national debt."
Sen. Lee's aversion to the only conceivable deal and a big win for conservatives is so noted.
Don Stewart, director of communications for Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had a different take. He told me, "Democrats have now acknowledged that the status quo is simply unacceptable. Now we need to finish the job."
Republican House leadership was equally cheery. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a statement that read:
The American people want us to cut spending while keeping the government running. Eleven days ago, the House passed H.R. 1, which accomplishes both of those goals. H.R. 1 makes common-sense spending cuts that economists say are needed to help boost our economy, while keeping the government running for the rest of the fiscal year. The responsibility lies with the Senate to now follow the House in passing legislation to cut spending and keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year.
Senate passage today of the House-passed short-term funding bill means the Senate now has two more weeks to accomplish this goal. Washington Democrats must either bring H.R. 1 to a vote in the Senate, or outline and pass their own plan for cutting spending and keeping the government funded through September.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) put out a near-identical statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made clear in his statement that this is the beginning and not the end of Republican budget-cutting, arguing that "while a good first step, we must cut far deeper than the $4 billion in total spending reductions contained in the Continuing Resolution, which are deeply inadequate to begin dealing with our nation's debt crisis. Job creators will not make new job-creating investments until the uncertainty of this debt crisis is resolved. A failure to tackle this problem in a serious and meaningful way will only further compound our economic problems and keep America on a path toward a diminished future."
And so the center of gravity has shifted. The question is now how much to chop from the remainder of the 2011 budget, and then how much to cut spending in the Republicans' soon-to-be-unveiled 2012 budget proposal. The president in his State of the Union address and the Senate Democrats in their initial opposition to any further cuts in the 2011 budget badly misread the public's enthusiasm for spending restraint. The Republicans now have the momentum to continue their push for fiscal sobriety.
Still to be determined are just how strenuously the White House will defend its domestic programs and how serious are the Republicans about entitlement reform, which as we all know, is where the real money is.
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