By a bipartisan vote of 359-67, the House of Representatives passed an omnibus budget bill Wednesday that will fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year. Despite vocal opposition from outside conservative groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, only 64 Republicans voted against the bill.
The bill, which built on the Murray-Ryan compromise in December, represents an increase in government discretionary spending over the sequestration but still is lower than the budget under the George W. Bush administration after adjusting for inflation. The result was grudging bipartisan support from members of both parties.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) told The Daily Beast that the bill seemed to be a step forward. It cut government spending by over $20 billion, including over $1 billion from Obamacare and $10 million from the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a government agency set up under the ACA that was famously called a “death panel” by former Alaska governor and reality television star Sarah Palin. In Sessions’s opinion, “We told people we were going to reduce the size and cost of government and we did that,” noting that 2014 spending was below 2008 levels.
In contrast, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), perhaps the most liberal member of Congress, gave a floor speech prior to the vote where she praised the bill for increasing funding for the United Nations, among other pet left-wing causes. She wasn’t satisfied with the bill by any means either but supported it nonetheless.
In fact, no member seemed to be entirely satisfied with the bill. It was a compromise that received support as much because it restored “regular order” and the traditional appropriations process. As Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) noted “You can go line by line and find things that you don’t like. On balance, getting back to a normal budget process is key because that’s how we can really start to getting budget discipline in place.” The restoration of the normal budget process also has other advantages as well for congressmen as it makes it much easier to direct pork back to their districts. Boustany noted with pride that the omnibus allocated $1 billion dollars to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. “It’s something I fought for for a long time,” the Louisiana congressman told The Daily Beast. “It’s very important for our ports in Louisiana and around the country.”
But presuming the omnibus passes the Senate as expected, the most important effect will be to prevent another government shutdown through September and to mark at least a temporary halt to the budget brinkmanship on Capitol Hill.