Friday, March 6, 2009

Suddenly "This Year's Business": Senate Republicans Force Delay in Vote on Spending Bill

The Senate has delayed voting on a spending measure that would fund operation of the government until September. The measure has provoked criticism because it contains nearly 9,000 earmarks.

President Obama was a vocal opponent of earmarks during his presidential campaign. In response to demands that the president veto the legislation or ask Congress to remove the earmarks, officials from the Obama administration said that the budget was "last year's business" and that the country needed to "move on." Apparently, the proposed measure has suddenly become this year's business.

According to the Associated Press:
Senate Republicans, demanding the right to try to change a huge spending bill, forced Democrats on Thursday night to put off a final vote on the measure until next week. The surprise development will force Congress to pass a stopgap funding bill to avoid a partial shutdown of the government.

Republicans have blasted the $410 billion measure as too costly. But the reason for GOP unity in advance of a key procedural vote was that Democrats had not allowed them enough opportunities to offer amendments.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., canceled the vote, saying he was one vote short of the 60 needed to close debate and free the bill for President Barack Obama's signature.

Democrats and their allies control 58 seats, though at least a handful of Democrats oppose the measure over its cost or changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba. That meant Democrats needed five or six Republican votes to advance the bill.
Two prominent Democratic Senators -- Evan Bayh and Russ Feingold -- also oppose the measure due to the earmarks. They have called upon Obama to veto it if it passes.

2 comments:

dualdiagnosis said...

Is it just me, or do I sense a whole lot of trouble coming for this young administration?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Well, unless the Democrats can vote as a unified block plus get a couple of Republicans, stuff will stall in the Senate. I guess that's why they are calling for Burris to leave anymore. And with Franken still out, it will remain tight. I remember arguing a long time ago that Senate Democrats could have done more to block Bush's policies, if they were as heinous as liberals believed. But we caved on a lot of issues.

The omnibus budget was a very easy target. Obama campaigned on ending earmarks, and describing the matter as "last year's business" sounded weak. Even though some Republicans have inserted earmarks, not all of them have - especially John McCain, who tried to block them.

The Republicans will probably insert all types of amendments into the spending bill to get it passed. It would have been easier just to delete the earmarks or at least subject them to public debate. That's my main problem with them -- the lack of public attention and the volume in a terrible economy. I understand that if agencies have discretionary budget authority, they can make handouts too. But there are a lot of rules in place - and Obama says he's strengthening them - regarding the use of federal money by the agencies.

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