“Tonight, the Senate has joined the House of Representatives in taking an important step toward rebuilding our struggling economy,â€ said Obama in a statement. “This budget resolution embraces our most fundamental priorities: an energy plan that will end our dependence on foreign oil and spur a new clean energy economy; an education system that will ensure our children will be able to compete in the economy of the 21st century; and health care reform that finally confronts the back-breaking costs plaguing families, businesses and government alike.â€ The president is in Europe for the G-20 summit and NATO meetings.
The House of Representatives approved its version of the budget with a 233-196 roll call, with 20 Democrats voting no. The budget calls for spending of $3.6 trillion and includes a deficit of $1.2 trillion.
The Senate voted a few hours later, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding. The vote was 55-43 for a slightly different proposal that calls for spending $3.5 trillion and but still forecasts a $1.2 trillion deficit. All but two Democrats voted yes.
“It’s going to take a lot of work to clean up the mess we inherited, and passing this budget is a critical step in the right direction,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said. “Staying true to these priorities will help turn around the economy for the many Americans who are underwater right now.”
While passage of the budget in the House and Senate represents victories for the administration, the budgets clear the way for work later in the year on key presidential priorities, which Obama referenced in his statement.
Both chambers adopted the president’s plan to extend tax cuts for the middle class beyond their 2010 expiration date and to allow tax cuts to expire for families making more than $250,000 a year.
The measures now move to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the proposals. This is where the devil will definitely be in the details because although Democrats obviously support the president’s budget, they remain divided over the implementation.
However, before votes could be made on the resolutions that ultimately passed, House lawmakers had to first consider alternative budget proposals crafted by the Congressional Black Caucus, Republicans and progressive Democrats.
The CBC has submitted an alternative budget for the past 16 years. But with impressive Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and the first African American president — and former CBC member — in the White House, one might assume this year would be different.
California Rep. Barbara Lee, who heads the CBC, said, “President Obama’s budget is a welcome shift in priorities away from the failed policies of the previous administration. The CBC budget complements the president’s budget by focusing attention on those most in need.â€