Spending Bill Passed, Shutdown Averted (For Now)
In an uncharacteristic display of competence and efficiency, Congress passed an $1 trillion spending bill today that will, for the time being, avert a government shutdown. With spending levels dictated by last year’s budget agreement, the bill sailed through the House and Senate with bipartisan support, and as long as President Obama signs it before Saturday night, the government will remain funded until at least next September. Of course, basic governance shouldn’t be considered a praiseworthy accomplishment, but considering the current state of Congress, it kind of is.
The legislation cuts the Department of Homeland Security by $336 million, with most of those cuts concentrated in the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). It also adds some funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Checks program and, unrelatedly, to border security between Tijuana and San Diego. Oh, and it cuts embassy security funding by $224 million, something that every Republican who voted for it should keep in mind next time they get the urge to start screaming about Benghazi.
The bill also contains limited cuts to Obamacare. The Prevention and Public Health (PPH) fund and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) will be cut by $1 billion and $10 million, respectively. The PPH is a general purpose account, the contents of which haven’t yet been allocated to anything in particular, while the IPAB is the thing Sarah Palin once inanely referred to as a “death panel” and is tasked with finding potential savings in Medicare spending.
While the White House probably isn’t happy about either of these cuts, neither will affect the fundamental structure or functioning of the Affordable Care Act. On that note, Ted Cruz was reduced to a shadow of his former self during the bill's passage, agreeing to let the bill proceed with minimal fuss and tantrum. His only attempt at obstruction was to request that the Senate unanimously agree to two Obamacare-defunding amendments. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t.
72 Senators voted to pass the bill, while 26 — all Republicans — opposed it. Nay votes included Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, all of whom are prospective GOP presidential candidates and, as such, are required to vote against all spending legislation, lest they be branded big spending liberals in the 2016 primaries.
One Democrat who may be unhappy about the bill is Vice President Joe Biden, as it contained a provision freezing the Vice President's salary