Colorado members of Congress forced into tough votes with latest budget agreement

GOP increases deficit; Dems vote down social money
Colorado members of Congress forced into tough votes with latest budget agreement
Posted at 1:02 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 18:50:46-05

DENVER – Congress brought a quick end to the second government shutdown in three weeks when it passed a wide-ranging, $400 billion budget agreement early Friday morning that will fund the federal government through March 23.

Many lawmakers were forced to make difficult decisions with their vote, as the budget measure includes extra military spending, which has been sought by Republicans, and increases in non-military spending for community health centers, the opioid crisis and other health initiatives pushed by Democrats.

It will also, according to some estimates, explode the deficit by up to an extra $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years if some of the facets of the deal are extended over the next couple of years. It also increases spending caps by $300 billion through March 2019—a deal that brought the deal through the House.

But naysayers of the deal pointed to the massive $1.5 trillion tax cut Republicans just passed, saying that the budget deal would only make the country’s financial situation worse in coming years.

But the deal didn’t include a DACA extension or any protections for Dreamers, which has been sought by most Democrats and some Republicans, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring up the immigration debate vehicle when the Senate is next in session Monday.

But as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., pointed out in his stand on the Senate floor that led to the brief shutdown, Republicans had to vote for a bill that will continue to increase the deficit and debt in order to keep the government open, which he said amounted to “hypocrisy.” And some Democrats opted to vote against measures extending social and health care programs.

The Senate passed the measure 71-28, while the House voted 240-186 to pass the measure to the president, who signed it later Friday morning.

Colorado lawmakers forced to make difficult decisions

Sixty-seven Republicans voted against the measure in the House, and 73 Democrats voted for it.

Most Republicans from Colorado – Sen. Cory Gardner and Reps. Scott Tipton, Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn – voted to approve the measure despite the spending and deficit increases.

And all of the state’s Democrats – Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter – voted against the measure.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., was the lone Colorado Republican to join the state’s Democrats in voting against the bill. Though he just a week ago said that the U.S. was “already seeing the economic benefits” of the tax cut bill and said he was “eager” to work with the Trump administration on several initiatives that included “reducing government spending.”

Buck held true to the latter pledge, and said in a statement that the reason he voted against the Friday morning deal was because of the spending and debt ceiling increases.

“We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to restore fiscal sanity in this nation. The Senate compromise doesn’t do that,” Buck said.

But his fellow Republicans from Colorado all approved the measure, despite their past concerns about the deficit. Gardner was the only Republican voting yes who addressed the massive spending in the measure in his statement.

He and his fellow Republicans said they approved the measure mostly because it extended the military’s budget for a full year.

Gardner said that he voted for the measure in order to “keep our global military superiority and to end an unnecessary government shutdown.” But he added that “Congress must do more to address over-spending through open debate and an amendment process.”

Gardner as recently as January 2016 said: “We need sane fiscal policy and a balanced budget.”

Coffman, who has called himself a “deficit hawk,” and repeatedly railed against increasing deficits and overspending under Obama, didn’t mention the spending increases or deficit in his statement.

He said he voted for the measure to fulfill his “constitutional duty to provide for the common defense,” and praised the measures contained within the deal extending military spending, CHIP and funding for community health centers.

Coffman said he wants to find “a solution to DACA” and to “continue growing our economy” as the next steps.

Tipton voted for the bill, but said he was “disappointed” with the agreement and that he would rather have had the Senate vote on the House’s bill instead. He said, however, that the budget agreement “goes a long way towards reversing harmful policies” and provides “much needed certainty for our men and women in uniform.”

As recently as September 2016, Tipton said a “better way to operate” was needed because of a CBO projection that the 2016 deficit would reach $590 billion.

Lamborn, who in 2014 voted against raising the debt ceiling, saying at the time, “We need spending reforms and deficit reductions, not the same path that adds to future debt burden,” praised the measure because of its addressing of the military budget and increase in military spending.

“This deal begins to reverse the years of funding cuts that has left our troops undertrained and underequipped," he said in a statement Friday.

And while the Democrats voted against several projects they’ve pushed for over the past year and a military spending measure that they’ve criticized Republicans for not passing in their ongoing stopgap solutions, they echoed Paul’s statements that Republicans were being hypocritical.

The Democrats from Colorado were also able to vote against the measure and take a stand for Dreamers since both chambers had enough bipartisan votes to pass the measure. After the Senate had passed its version over to the House, it had to go through the House Rules Committee before it could be debated in the House.

There, Polis offered an amendment to add the Dream Act onto the budget deal, but it was defeated by Republicans in a 9-4 vote.

DeGette said her vote against the measure was mainly because of the lack of a DACA deal in the measure. She called the continuing stopgap solutions a “disgrace” and “wasteful” and said that “we cannot let them down” in regards to Dreamers.

Perlmutter slammed Republicans for adding $300 billion to the national debt on top of the trillion-dollar tax cut debt increase, and said he wouldn’t support a measure without DACA protections. On top of that, he pointed out that the military spending being praised by Republicans was something “that the Defense Department didn’t even ask for.”

Bennet praised “many of the defense and non-defense provisions in the bill,” but said the debt increases in the tax cut and the budget measure “will push our deficits to the highest level since World War II, absent recession.”

“Memories may be short in the nation’s capital, but Colorado knows that we have just fought our way back from the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Bennet said. “It is astonishing to me that so many members of Congress who refused to lift a finger during the recession in the name of fiscal responsibility are now leading the way to a trillion-dollar deficit.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona noted the interesting votes on the bill, telling the Associated Press, “The only time we discover bipartisanship is when we spend more money.”

And President Trump threw water on any immediate hopes for a bipartisan DACA deal, which both chambers of Congress say they are close to, but from which the White House remains far off.

“Costs on non-military lines will never come down if we do not elect more Republicans in the 2018 Election, and beyond. This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes,” Trump tweeted. “Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!”

McConnell is expected to bring up the House bill that will be the vehicle for the Senate’s bipartisan immigration deal on Monday.