Most Md. lawmakers cheer budget deal
Most members of Maryland’s congressional delegation backed a last-minute agreement reached late Friday night that will avert a government shutdown and cut nearly $40 billion in spending from the federal budget.
After days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and bitter public exchanges between the White House and the Republican-led House of Representatives, President Barack Obama, with the National Mall visible behind him, said he was “pleased to announce that the Washington Monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business.”
The deal, which is headed to a vote next week, would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, which runs through September. Overnight, Congress passed a separate, short-term funding bill to keep the government running through April 15 in order to give both sides more time to finalize the agreement.
Without an agreement, the government would have shut down today. Experts and elected officials predicted that would have had a more widespread impact in Maryland than most other states because of its high concentration of federal employees and contractors.
Maryland Democrats supported the short-term measure and the state’s two Republican members in the House split their vote: Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett backed the funding measure while Rep. Andy Harris joined 28 Republicans and 42 Democrats in voting against it. In all, the House vote was 348-70 in favor of the proposal. The Senate approved the measure on a voice vote.
Harris said in an interview he was particularly concerned about Department of Defense cuts included in the short-term measure, especially given recent U.S. involvement in Libya. Asked whether the brinkmanship that led up to the agreement presages even tougher fights ahead, Harris said: "I think it does show just how hard it is to decrease spending in Washington."
Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said in a statement that “the American people won when Congress voted to avoid a shutdown.
“Now it’s time to turn our attention to meeting the important challenges that face our nation,” he said. “Those include reducing our deficit in a way that preserves important programs for American families, protecting our environment, and helping to grow our economy for the future.”
“It was time for Democrats and Republicans to come to the table, compromise accordingly and get the job done,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat. “I am still not pleased with the draconian cuts that balance our recovery on the backs of the middle class and most vulnerable in our society. However, I am pleased that the government will be able to provide critical services, with museum and park doors kept open, and 800,000 federal employees hard at work.”
Rep. Donna F. Edwards said that a shutdown would have been a “disaster” for children, seniors and federal workers.
“It is no small victory that the 150,000 federal workers in my district, the 700,000 in the metropolitan area, and the 2.1 million across the country will continue to receive paychecks and our children and seniors will continue to receive essential services,” the Prince George’s County Democrat said in a statement.
Members of both parties cast the agreement as a victory over the other side.
“I am pleased that Republicans backed away from their hard line position of shutting the government down over divisive social issues,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, who represents Southern Maryland, said in a statement. “I will carefully review the details to ensure it contains spending cuts that do not greatly harm our ability to create jobs and invest in our economy. I believe that we must reduce the deficit, but it can be done in a way that protects investments in our future.”
House Republicans said they hoped to put the current-year funding debate behind them so they could move on to next year’s budget.
“We need to move forward and get to work on the much larger debate over how to cut trillions, not billions, in government spending and help make our economy more competitive,” said Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican who heads the House Republican Policy Committee.