Congress Approves Obama's $3.4 Trillion Spending Blueprint - washingtonpost.com
Despite a persistent recession and soaring budget deficits, Democrats overwhelmingly endorsed the president's request for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending over the next decade for college loans, early childhood education programs, veterans' benefits and investments in renewable energy aimed at reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil.Congress Approves Obama's $3.4 Trillion Spending Blueprint - washingtonpost.com
Lawmakers also agreed to use a powerful procedural tool known as reconciliation to advance the president's proposal to expand health coverage for the uninsured -- a move that ensures Republicans would not be able to filibuster the legislation. Unlike in 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton unveiled a universal coverage plan that went nowhere on Capitol Hill, Obama has a strong mandate for change from both chambers of Congress and a mid-October deadline for key congressional committees to send legislation to the full House and Senate.
The budget resolution didn't win a single vote from Republican lawmakers, who were enraged that the deficit is projected to exceed $1.2 trillion next year. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called it an "audacious move to a big socialist government" that piles "debt on the backs of our kids and our grandkids."George F. Will - Washington Unreconciled on 'Reconciliation' and Torture - washingtonpost.com
Still, the measure passed the House by a vote of 233 to 193 and the Senate 53 to 43. Only 17 Democrats in the House and three in the Senate voted against it, as did Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who announced Tuesday that he would leave the Republican Party.
Approval of the budget blueprint marked a huge victory for Obama on his 100th day in office, but it was not a slam-dunk for him. Lawmakers trimmed his tax-cutting plans, refusing to extend his signature tax credit for working families past 2010 unless it is paid for. They sliced $10 billion from his spending request for non-defense programs in the fiscal year that begins in October and jettisoned his suggestion that another $250 billion would be needed to stabilize the banking system. They also refused to authorize the use of reconciliation for his plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
The reconciliation process was created in 1974 to facilitate adjustments of existing spending programs. Former senator John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says using reconciliation to ram through health-care reform would "circumvent the normal and customary workings of American democracy." But those workings have changed markedly.
The most important alteration of the legislative process in recent decades has been the increasingly promiscuous use of filibusters to impose a de facto supermajority requirement for important legislation. And "important" has become a very elastic term.
It should be difficult for government to act precipitously. "Great innovations," said Jefferson, "should not be forced on slender majorities." Revamping health care -- 17 percent of the economy -- qualifies as a great innovation. This is especially so because the administration and its allies, without being candid about what is afoot, are trying to put the nation on a glide path to a "single-payer" -- entirely government-run -- system. They would do this by creating a government health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. It would be able to -- indeed, would be intended to -- push private insurers out of business.
But when Republicans ran the Senate, they, too, occasionally made dubious use of reconciliation. And Republicans' merely situational commitment to legislative due process was displayed in 2003 when they held open a House vote for three hours until they could pressure enough reluctant Republicans to pass the prescription drug entitlement.