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A Minor Miracle in Congress

J: On October 26 the House of Representatives voted 216-212 to pass a Budget Resolution. All the votes in favor were from Republicans. Some 20 Republicans, mostly from states with high taxes, joined 192 Democrats in opposing the resolution (known as “H Con Res 71”).

The House had passed an earlier version on October 9 by a 219-206 vote. However, the rules under the Budget Impoundment and Control Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-344) require the House and Senate to pass the same resolution. The Senate passed their version of the resolution by a 51-49 vote on October 19. All Democrats and the two independents (Rufus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont) who caucus with them voted against the measure along with one Republican, Rand Paul of Kentucky.

This meant the House had to agree to the Senate version. That was what they did on October 26.

The reasons this is only a minor miracle are many. One is that they are supposed to accomplish this task by April 15 in order to give the various committees time to develop the necessary 12 appropriations bills. Of course, they never passed a budget resolution last year, so this at least marks some progress.

A second reason is this bill is for the fiscal year that started October 1. A third reason is that the resolution is not fiscally responsible. The highly regarded and definitely bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has blasted the blueprint in a blog entitled, “Newly-Passed Budget Chooses Gimmicks and Debt over Fiscal Restraint.”

This will not be the final word as the budget resolution is only a blueprint. It should help Congress get new appropriations done by the December 9 deadline when the current Continuing Resolution funding the US government expires.

It is important to remember that budget resolutions only impact Congress. They do not have to be signed by the President.

It is also important to know that this resolution allows Congress to pass a tax bill that could add as much as $1.5 trillion to the deficit over ten years. It also means that the Senate can pass a tax bill with only 51 votes. Thus, Democrats will be unable to filibuster it.

The same rules apply to any future attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That means we have probably not seen the last of partisan battling over health care.

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