US government shutdown averted as budget war ongoing

On Thursday Congress approved a continuing resolution or the "stopgap bill" that will prevent the government from the partial shutdown after March 27 while the House endorsed Ryan's budget for fiscal 2014.

US government shutdown averted as budget war ongoing

by Dagmar Benesova
WBP Online correspondent in Washington

Government shutdown was averted as the House approved a "stopgap bill" by 318 to 109 votes. The blueprint will keep the government running until the end of the fiscal year in September, while partially muting the unpopular $85 billion of across-the-board spending cuts.

Painful sequestration has been eased, although the document is criticized from both sides of the political spectrum. Both Democrats and Republicans have had to step aside from some of their priorities. Most conservative Republicans squabble over the shallow cuts, while Democrats are still calling the same blueprint draconian.

"Whatever our disagreement on some of these bills is, it was worse to shut down government," said Democratic House Minority Leader Pelosi on Thursday.

"Under this bill some agencies will have an appropriation bill that will give them some flexibility so others have the opportunity to come to the Congress. We will work with their requests." said Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Despite the easing of cuts the Pentagon will still experience the biggest impact. Other departments like Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture and also the Veterans Affairs Department will feel the more forgiving side of the stopgap bills. The proposal replaces the current continuing resolution and keeps the government running for the next six months, until September 30, the end of fiscal year.

2014 budget war in deadlock

The bipartisan bickering found a rare compromise when agreeing on a stopgap bill, but the ideological and political divide over the fiscal budget for 2014 is sharpening.

Republican ruled House backed Paul Ryan's 2014 budget plan with a 221 to 207 vote while the 10 most conservative Republicans voted against the document. None of the Democrats endorsed the blueprint, unsurprisingly.

Democratic House Minority Leader Pelosi called the bill "a road to poverty for more people in the country" on Thursday and put in contrast the Democratic and Republican version of the budget proposal, calling a Republican blueprint a "jobs-loser." "There are differences in party priorities," pointed out a Democrat from California.

"A budget is a statement of each party's vision of how they want to govern." remonstrated House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday and emphasized: "The House has done its part today. Hopefully the Senate will approve its budget soon. And I hope that we can actually have a conversation between the two chambers. This can not be done without understanding of how we move forward together."

A Republican from Ohio it out at Democratic demands on raising the federal deficit: "The federal government would take more revenue than in any year in the history of our country. We still have nearly a $1 trillion budget deficit."

Ryan proposed a budget plan that aims to slash spending by $4.6 trillion, reduce the top tax rate to 25% and balance the budget within 10 years.

"I believe that revenue discussion is over. It's time to cut spending. The American people know that we have a spending problem." stated the House Speaker on Thursday.

Ryan's budget also repeals President Barack Obama’s healthcare law and changes Medicare in the blueprint. Democrats expressed their regrets that the House okayed Ryan's budget on the day when Obama's healthcare marked its third anniversary. "It's very sad that on the third anniversary the House has passed Ryan's budget that repeals the Affordable Care Act." regretted Minority Leader Pelosi.

The Democratic vision of a budget for fiscal year 2014 asks for $975 billion in tax hikes for the wealthiest along with spending cuts, that will put a cap on the rising debt in the next decade. The Senate Democratic version calls for slashes of $1.85 trillion from deficits over the next decade. The House Democratic version of the budget is very similar, counts with public debt at 70% of gross domestic product (GDP) and revenue at 19.8%. The spending of the Democratic House blueprint is 22.1% of the economy in ten years, while the Senate's version spending is 21.9% in 2023.

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