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Senate Vote: 36     Vote Date: Mar 9th, 2011

Issue:  H.R. 1, Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011. [GOP Plan]  A bill making appropriations for the Department of Defense and the other departments and agencies of the Government for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, and for other purposes.  Question:   On passage (3/5 vote required).

Result:  Failed 44 to 56.  GOP selected vote.

Bill Summary:  Provides $1.028 trillion in discretionary funding for the remainder of FY 2011 (approximately 7 months) — an estimated $57 billion below current levels.

Analysis:  The leaders of both parties were fully aware that neither the GOP appropriations plan (this Senate vote) nor the Democrat plan (Senate vote 37) were going to pass. So the votes on both measures were primarily posturing. The GOP plan would trim discretionary spending a parsley $57 billion (out of $1.028 trillion!!). The GOP website hypes its fiscal conservatism by comparing this GOP bill to the president’s budget request.

The appropriations for discretionary spending in Fiscal Year 2011 ended up being funded entirely by a series of 8 continuing appropriations acts that made no tough choices or serious spending reductions. The 8th and final appropriations act for FY 2011, H.R. 1473, was passed in both the House and Senate on April 14, 2011 (see House Roll Call 268 and Senate Vote 61). President Obama signed it into law the following day.

Public reaction to the recession and heightened concern over reckless deficit spending and the rising national debt had focused the political debate on domestic spending reductions — anathema to the liberals. But the Establishment media and the political debate constantly deceived the public as to the nature of the partisan battle and the real options available to Congress.

The public was told that the House had to compromise, that “the only way to avoid a government shutdown this spring will be for those fiscally zealous and anti-establishment freshman Republicans to realize their limits in a divided government and agree to a classic legislative deal — one in which the bottom line is only barely palatable to either side.” (Roll Call Daily Briefing, 2-14-11.)

However, the GOP leaders in both chambers were part of the problem and not seriously interested in major cuts in spending, let alone restricting federal spending to constitutionally authorized limits. The proper way for the House to use its power of the purse leverage with the other branches is to break down the federal budget into pieces (at a minimum the 12 regular appropriations bills) and force the Senate and the president to make tough choices.   And if the Senate had the will, it could do the same.

The federal deficit for FY 2011 ended up recording a massive $1.3 trillion deficit. The following year, FY 2012, would turn in a deficit of $1.1 trillion, the fourth straight year of $1 trillion + deficits, and close to what President Obama had projected in his 2011 budget proposal. So much for any serious battle or even real compromise!

Three GOP Senators voted against the plan to show their support for further spending cuts.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Note: The path of H.R. 1 illustrates the often confusing movement of legislation through Congress. On 2/11/2011, Rep. Harold Rogers introduced H.R. 1 as the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act for 2013. However, H.R. 1 was immediately used (Roll Call 147, 2-19-11) as a vehicle in the House for the GOP plan for FY 2011 consolidated appropriations, passing 235 to 189, followed by this Senate vote 36 and the Democratic substitute Senate vote 37.   In December of the following year, H.R. 1 was used as a vehicle for a Senate vote on Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief (Roll Call 248, 12-28-12).