Bad Budget Blunted...For Now
November 10, 2005 - 7:39pm ET
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Congressional Quarterly put it this way: "After a fruitless day of arm-twisting, GOP leaders late Thursday gave up for this week on their effort to push a $50 billion, five-year budget savings bill (HR 4241) through the House." This is good news...probably. TomPaine.com readers know that this budget bill stinks—it makes drastic cuts to safety net programs while preserving tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republican Party base is clamoring for the bill because of its "fiscal conservative" trappings. Over at conservative Redstate.org, there's a campaign to brand Republicans who won't support the bill as "bedwetters:"
<!--StartFragment -->This is the biggest vote of the 109th Congress – period. It is the first time Republicans are attempting to seriously address out-of-control spending since 1997 by reducing its rate of growth by saving $50 billion over five years. However, this vote has become far more about symbolism than substance (although the substance is good), and it is now about the soul of the House Republican majority
<!--StartFragment -->Let's be clear. This is a fight that the moderates cannot be allowed to win. For the first time in a decade, the House Republican majority is acting like the Contract of America majority we thought we sent to Congress.
Well, the moderates won this fight this week. But will the delay on the vote help or hurt the fight to preserve funding for vital programs like food stamps and student loans? A colleague who understands the Hill better than I offers this analysis of what could happen if the GOP unity in the House continues to disintegrate:
There is definitely the possibility that they won't be able to get through the spending cuts or the tax cuts. Budget reconciliation does not need to happen by the end of the year or ever [it's not mandatory]. They have to finish up appropriations before the end of the year BUT:
- Appropriations can be filibustered (unlike budget reconciliation)
- Mandatory spending programs (e.g., Medicaid) cannot be cut in appropriations process (unlike budget recon)
Best case: no budget reconciliation package, just regular appropriations.
So, here's hoping that time in their districts—face to face with the people who rely on food stamps or Medicaid or student loans—will only increase the resolve of the Republicans defecting from the party discipline. And they'll come back ready to resist the next round of arm-twisting.
UPDATE: At least some of the credit for the impasse over the budget should go to the national group coordinating the fight to stop these immoral budget cuts, the Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities (ECAP). Not a snappy name, I admit, but their name is secondary to their tactics. ECAP has held dozens of local protests in the districts of moderate Republicans and coordinated thousands of phone calls to the Hill to challenge members of Congress not to pass a budget that achieves savings by cutting programs vital to low-income Americans. After the House announced it wasn't voting on the budget last week, ECAP issued a press release describing how their strategy is getting results:
ECAP has made a substantial contribution to today’s victory for the American people. Over the last two weeks, ECAP sponsored dozens of events targeting nearly 40 moderate Republican House members and nearly a dozen U.S. Senators. ECAP has lodged hundreds of thousands of calls into the offices of moderate Republicans and held those accountable who were ready to cave to the ANWR bait and switch. ECAP also had hundreds of grass tops visits made to potential swing votes and had thousands of letters and emails delivered to members of Congress.
In the words of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi , "We made the issues in that budget too hot for the Republicans to handle.”
To learn how you can help keep the heat on Republicans, go to U.S. Action, one of the groups associated with ECAP.
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