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Fragile GOP unity means budget bill needs bipartisan support

Though congressional lawmakers avoided a federal government shutdown by agreeing to a short-term funding extension late Friday and early Saturday, there’s still concern that the deal negotiated between President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to cut $38.5 billion of government spending, won’t get enough Republican support, reports Roll Call.

At this point, several Republicans have already said they will not support the bill, and as Roll Call points out, more Democratic support will likely be needed to pass the budget. But, of course, there’s opposition in that camp, too.

From Roll Call:

Boehner had hoped to get at least 218 Republicans to support the final package as a demonstration of GOP unity heading into more difficult debates on raising the debt ceiling and passing a 2012 budget. But in a sign of how difficult the Ohioan’s challenge is as leader of a Republican Conference packed with Members eager to demonstrate their independence, few Republicans immediately embraced the hard-fought deal.

[...]

Although the deal was crafted to garner a filibuster-proof 60 votes [in the Senate], aides cautioned Monday that there could be opponents in both parties and said it was too early to estimate how much support the measure would get.

[...]

Only 28 GOP lawmakers, including [Reps. Jim] Jordan and [Mike] Pence, opposed the latest three-day continuing resolution. However, a more accurate prediction for the final tally of Republican support for the six-month spending bill is thought to be the March 15 vote on a stopgap spending measure that garnered only 186 Republican votes. Fifty-four House Republicans opposed the measure, compared with just six for the first short-term CR this Congress.

Democratic aides had mixed reactions on whether House Democrats will support the final package. In the past three votes, Democratic leadership has been split on whether to support the measures. One Democratic leadership aide said Democratic support of the final package isn’t guaranteed, particularly if Republicans can’t get over the 218-vote hump of passing the bill on their own.

The House is expected to hold a floor vote Wednesday, and the Senate will vote on Thursday.

Several Republicans — such as Pence (Ind.) and Jordan (Ohio) and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) – threatening a ‘no’ vote have been motivated by what is not in the bill, particularly the absence of riders to defund Planned Parenthood and NPR and to block implementation of health care reform. Democratic lawmakers have objected to the deep spending cuts, along with the D.C. abortion and voucher provisions — highlighted by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s protest and arrest at the Hart Senate Office Building Monday night.

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a summary of the final 2011 Continuing Resolution (PDF). A few highlights, taken directly from the summary:

  • The final CR will include a total of $1.049 trillion in funding, a nearly $40 billion reduction from last year’s (fiscal year 2010) levels. This includes the $12 billion in reductions previously approved by Congress and signed into law under the previous three continuing resolutions, as well as nearly $28 billion in additional new spending cuts.
  • The CR also includes $6.75 billion for the Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which allows the program to support more than 9 million income-eligible mothers, infants, and children up to 5 years of age.
  • Defense Funding: The Department of Defense is funded at $513 billion in the CR – approximately $5 billion above last year – providing the necessary resources for the safety of our troops and the success of our nation’s military actions. The bill also includes an additional $157.8 billion for overseas contingency operations (emergency funding) to advance our missions abroad.
  • The CR restores a long-standing provision against the use of federal and local funds for abortions in the District of Columbia. The bill also includes the reauthorization of the DC Opportunity Scholarships, along with a $2.3 million funding increase, to stop the termination of the program and allow new students to participate. The legislation also eliminates four Administration “Czars,” including the “Health Care Czar,” the “Climate Change Czar,” the “Car Czar,” and the “Urban Affairs Czar.”
  • The CR terminates funding for more than 55 programs, for a total savings of well over $1 billion. In addition, the bill terminates two programs funded in ObamaCare (the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) and the Free Choice Voucher programs). The bill makes reforms to the Pell Grant Program that are estimated to save more than $35 billion over the next 10 years by eliminating the ability of students to draw down two Pell Grant awards at the same time. Finally, the CR will return Title X funding to fiscal year 2008 levels.
  • The Transportation, Housing, Urban Development and Related Agencies section of the CR contains a total of $55.5 billion, a $12.3 billion, or 18%, reduction from fiscal year 2010 levels, and a reduction of $13.2 billion, or 20%, from the President’s fiscal year 2011 request.

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