Skip to main content

Congress avoids shutdown, bickers over 2014 budget

By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
March 22, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Paul Ryan, presented his budget plan during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 12.
Paul Ryan, presented his budget plan during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 12.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rep. Paul Ryan's 2014 budget fails in the Senate by a vote of 40 to 59
  • NEW: Ryan's bill balanced the budget by slashing $4.6 trillion in spending
  • Congress passes a budget bill, avoiding shutdown
  • The bill softens the blow of $85 billion in forced spending cuts

Washington (CNN) -- Capitol Hill lawmakers finally brought the 2013 budget fight to an end Thursday by approving a bill that ended the threat of a government shutdown -- minutes before ratcheting up the partisan warfare over taxes and spending in 2014.

Members of the House voted 318-109 to send President Barack Obama a bill funding the government through the end of the current fiscal year in September while easing the pain of $85 billion in forced spending cuts disliked by leaders on both sides of the aisle.

The measure extending current federal funding authority was needed to avoid a partial shutdown of the government on March 27. Both houses of Congress are scheduled to be on break over the next two weeks for the Easter and Passover holidays.

Don't expect much of a breather, however, in the bitter budget battles that have become one of the hallmarks of a sharply polarized, borderline dysfunctional national legislature. The GOP-controlled House also passed a fiscal year 2014 budget Thursday that is guaranteed to go nowhere in the Democratic-run Senate.

Ryan: My budget will increase jobs
Van Hollen: Dem budget plan is balanced

Opinion: Ryan budget is a firing offense

The Republican plan, crafted by recent Mitt Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, cuts taxes while balancing the budget over 10 years by slashing spending by $4.6 trillion, repealing Obama's health care law and making major changes to Medicare. No House Democrats voted for it.

The Senate voted Thursday on the Ryan budget in what appeared to be a political move to show it could not pass. It failed, with 59 senators voting against it and 40 voting in favor.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the Ryan budget a "bold plan" and a statement of party principles. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the Democratic leadership, called it an "uncompromising ideological approach" that would replicate disastrous European austerity policies.

New air traffic control towers among those on chopping block

Not to be outdone, the Democratic-controlled Senate continued its work Thursday on a 2014 budget that cuts the deficit in part by hiking taxes on the wealthy and corporations by $975 billion over the next decade. Republicans note taxes already went up at the start of 2013 as part of the fiscal cliff deal. GOP leaders insist they won't raise the overall tax burden another dime.

Democrats are "serving the needs of government instead of the needs of those who elected them," declared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

General: Cuts could hurt anti-drug efforts

As for the rest of the current fiscal year, the measure now set to become law reduces the impact of the $85 billion in forced cuts -- called sequestration -- by establishing stop-gap budgets for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and Veterans Affairs, among other things.

By crafting new budgets for targeted departments and programs, the package resets priorities and helps better manage the draconian formula of the spending cuts.

Crafted primarily by Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, the measure largely spares a number of politically sensitive programs from the budget ax, including meat inspection and infant nutrition.

Overall, the legislation locks in $984 billion in non-entitlement program spending -- a notable drop from the $1.043 trillion initially approved before the forced sequestration cuts took effect.

Despite the bill's bipartisan nature, many members on both sides of the aisle remain unhappy with the outcome.

Food inspectors rescued

Conservatives argue the package is still loaded with pork barrel spending. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, for example, questioned the inclusion of $65 million for Pacific coast salmon restoration.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, complained Wednesday about being denied a vote on an amendment to protect rural airport control towers from closure due to the cuts. He accused opponents of stripping critical funds simply to score political points and frame the debate in a way that favors defenders of a larger government.

It's "the only explanation I ever get that has any semblance of truth," Moran said on the Senate floor. "By denying the amendment's passage, we prove that sequestration can't work, that we can't cut money from budgets."

More liberal members of Congress blasted the cuts, but said the deal was the only way to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The cuts are "reckless," said Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. But "a government shutdown could wreak havoc on our already fragile economic recovery and must be prevented."

"Whatever our disagreement on some of these bills, it was worse to shut down government," added House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

Ryan explains 'why' of balancing budget in weekly address

CNN's Ted Barrett, Tom Cohen and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Tichleman 1
A makeup artist, writer and model who loves monkeys and struggles with demons.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Lionel Messi's ability is not in question -- but will the World Cup final allow him to emerge from another footballing legend's shadow?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
Why are Iraqi politicians dragging their feet while ISIS militants fortify their foothold across the country?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
An elephant, who was chained for 50 years, cries tears of joy after being freed in India. CNN's Sumnima Udas reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0732 GMT (1532 HKT)
Beneath a dusty town in northeastern Pakistan, CNN explores a cold labyrinth of hidden tunnels that was once a safe haven for militants.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2249 GMT (0649 HKT)
CNN's Ravi Agrawal asks whether Narendra Modi can harness the country's potential to finally deliver growth.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 0444 GMT (1244 HKT)
CNN's Ben Wedeman visits the Yazji family and finds out what it's like living life in the middle of conflict.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense system to halt incoming rockets. Here's how it works.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
People walk with their luggage at the Maiquetia international airport that serves Caracas on July 3, 2014. A survey by pollster Datanalisis revealed that 25% of the population surveyed (end of May) has at least one family member or friend who has emigrated from the country. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Plane passengers are used to paying additional fees, but one airport in Venezuela is now charging for the ultimate hidden extra -- air.
ADVERTISEMENT