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House Roll Call 640 (12-12-13) H.J. Res. 59 Became vehicle for the “Budget Deal.” Includes the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and the Pathway for SGR Reform Act of 2013. On Motion to Recede and Concur in the Senate Amendment with Amendment.

Agreed to by 332 to 94, 7 not voting.   Became Public Law 113-67 (signed by the president 12-26-13).

Bill Summary: Title I raises the sequester caps for certain categories of security and non-security discretionary spending for FY2014 and FY2015. Title I also sets forth the congressional budget for the federal government for FY2014, including appropriate budgetary levels for FY2015-FY2023.

Other Titles (II thru VII) modify several other federal programs, including: Natural Resources (Title III); Federal Civilian and Military Retirement (Title IV); Higher Education (Title V); and Transportation (Title VI). Also included: the Pathway for SGR [sustainable growth rate] Reform Act of 2013, which prevents a scheduled payment reduction for physicians and other providers who treat Medicare patients from taking effect on January 1, 2014.

Analysis: The House passed the so-called budget deal brokered by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) with huge bipartisan majorities. Republicans supported the deal 169 to 62, whereas Democrats came on board 163 to 32.

A week later, the Senate concurred 64 to 36 (all 36 nays came from the GOP), and the day after Christmas President Obama signed the measure into law. The legislation amended the 2011 Budget Control Act that gave us the sequester cuts. The new plan raised the $967 billion sequester level to $1.012 trillion for FY2014 and $1.014 trillion for FY2015.

Although the increase was far less than what many Democrats wanted, the bipartisan deal still moved spending in the wrong direction. The sequester cuts themselves only came about because astute politicians knew that much of the public regarded excessive federal spending as a major problem.

Not surprisingly, House Speaker John Boehner defended the deal: “[T]he budget agreement Ryan helped orchestrate — which reduces the deficit, balances the budget in 10 years and doesn’t raise taxes — in no way compromises core conservative principles.” — Roll Call (12-12-13)

Some GOP Senators, however, were unusually candid about the typically misleading “conservative” spending agreements coming out of Washington. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) stated:

“It’s the same old thing where …we’ll go ahead and spend the money now and in years nine and ten down the road we hope someone else will not.”

      And Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. described the measure as “kind of the age-old spend now, save later.”

We do not score the House Democrats for their vote on the “budget deal” as some liberals who generally want to spend more (e.g., John Conyers) voted no (House minority leader Nancy Pelosi voted aye).   We score both parties in the Senate (no Senate Democrats opposed the deal).

We have assigned (good vote) to the Noes and (bad vote) to the Ayes. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

The Next Travesty

Once the budget deal established the FY 2014 spending level, four-dozen or so congressional appropriators from both parties and both sides of the Capitol were instructed to prepare a massive omnibus spending measure. They were given a January 15 deadline to avoid another government “shutdown.”

In less than three weeks, the bipartisan team of appropriators wrote “legislation dictating all of the government’s discretionary spending for the final 37 weeks of this budget year.” — Roll Call (12-19-13)

The final $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill was revealed to the public less than 72 hours before it sailed through the House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities.   See House Roll Call 21, H.R. 3547, January 15, 2014 (2nd session).

The Compromise Trap

Near the top of the list of deceptions misleading Americans is the erroneous idea that America’s troubles must and can be fixed by negotiating with those who got us into trouble in the first place. That practice cannot defend “core conservative principles,” let alone the Constitution.

Constituents should insist that their congressman adhere to the Constitution rather than cut the best deal politically possible at the moment. True constitutionalists must fight for a healthy nation, not acquiesce in its slow death while sugarcoating the danger.

The first step in restoring constitutional government is to build a majority in the House committed to enforcing the Constitution. That requires informing and organizing constituents who will hold their representatives’ feet to the fire.

When step 1 is accomplished, the House can proceed to step 2: The House passes individual appropriations bills that eliminate, or in some cases phase out, unconstitutional programs and spending. A determined House need compromise little with the other two branches unless those branches are on the same track. The House merely uses its power of the purse to say to the Senate and Executive branch:

“For America’s health and responsible government, we can no longer support unconstitutional programs. Here’s what we will allow you to spend and for what and no more. Take it or leave it.”

     The response to the earlier “Pay Our Military Act” shows how breaking appropriations into smaller pieces can tap public pressure to force the other two branches to agree. H.R. 3210 was written to authorize military pay in the event of a government shutdown. When the partisan stalemate over FY2014 appropriations hardened, leading to the shutdown two days later, the House passed the Act by an overwhelming 423 to 0. Even the liberals dared not oppose it. The Senate likewise went along, and the president signed it into law on September 30.

For step 2 to succeed, representatives must also be confident of support from back home in the face of a predictable firestorm of media criticism.

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