Washington – Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, split with Connecticut’s four other House members in voting against a $1.04 trillion budget deal that will avert another government shutdown, eliminate across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester and set federal spending levels for the next two years.
The bill fails to fund federal long-term unemployment benefits for millions of people who’ve been out of work for more than 26 weeks, which DeLauro cited as “[m]ost troubling … during the Christmas season.
“It is unconscionable for Congress to go home after leaving such critical work undone,” she said in a statement, adding that “Funding for what should be our top priorities — education, health, child care, job training and infrastructure — has steadily eroded.”
The budget is considered a breakthrough in a Congress that has been frozen by partisanship for the past few years and was approved on a 332-94 vote.
Some conservative Republicans voted against the bill because they said it did not cut the federal budget enough.
The Senate is expected to consider the bill early next week.
The budget agreement isn’t the “grand bargain” many had hoped for, reforming taxes and entitlements and setting the nation on a path to solvency.
“I don’t particularly like the bill,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District. But he voted for it anyway. Himes said the bill has a “lack of ambition” because it fails to tackle entitlements and taxes. “But it’s important to work together.”
Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, also voted for the bill, largely because it ends the sequester, which has hurt Connecticut’s defense industry. “Both sides had to give up a lot,” Larson said. “I’m not happy with the bill, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said “like any compromise, it was not exactly what I would have wanted.”
“However, on balance, the relief from the growing impacts of sequestration and partisan gridlock is an undeniable benefit, Courtney said. ““However, the refusal of House Republican leadership to allow a vote to extend unemployment insurance before Congress adjourns for 2013 is inexcusable.”
The bill’s winners are the defense industry, as an elimination of the sequester adds $2.5 billion to the Pentagon’s budget, and social programs, including Head Start; both had been disproportionately hurt by the sequester. The budget deal adds more than $22 billion to domestic spending.
Also in the winning column are scientific and medical researchers, whose grants had dried up because of the across-the-board spending cuts.
Besides the long-term unemployed who will lose benefits on Dec. 28, the bill’s losers include newly hired government workers, who will have to contribute more to their pension funds, and military retirees under age 62, who qualify for pensions who would see their annual cost-of-living adjustment gradually reduced between now and 2016.
In addition, air travelers would have to pay higher airline fees. Oil producers would also be hurt because they will lose money as the federal government would stop buying new stockpiles of oil to save money.