The Californication of Congress, Continued…

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted on a deal to lift the debt ceiling, and make significant cuts to the federal budget. Here’s the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the deal:

It was a hostage situation, where the House Republicans were clear that they would full faith and credit of the United States to make their point. It’s hard to play chicken with someone willing to drive off the cliff. And over the weekend, we saw a situation where it was clear that Speaker Boehner did not have full control over his caucus–that he couldn’t necessarily make a deal even if he wanted to. The House didn’t approve the original Boehner package that didn’t even include revenues–which suggested they were willing to shoot the metaphorical hostage of the world economy.

So while incredibly disappointing, those who were surprised by an all-cuts, no-revenues package were likely not paying attention in the last week or so, where all the likely proposals no longer included revenues. That said, those latest proposals, and this final one, also didn’t include many of the awful proposals that were being discussed to be included in a “grand bargain.” The price of those revenues in earlier proposals would have been worse cuts, whether they were $100 billion in cuts in an already underfunded Medicaid, or a repeal of the CLASS Act provision of the Affordable Care Act. As Ezra Klein noted, this is a lowest-common denominator deal where there wasn’t compromise on the big issues.

So of course, there are cuts, and no revenues. For those of us who have experienced the debates around the California budget over the last several years, it was sadly familiar and perhaps expected. After all, Governor Jerry Brown offered a very generous package of reforms and proposals to state legislative Republicans in order to just get a few votes in each legislative house to pass a budget with revenues. Even that small number of Republicans would not budge–which was a far lower numerical bar than President Obama had to surmount. He needed seven Republican Senators to join a unified Democratic Senate caucus, as well as the support of a GOP-controlled House.

Like in California after Prop 25 allowed them to pass a budget without revenue by majority vote, the consolation prize for Democrats was not in the core issue on the size of the cuts, but in their substance and structure. The cuts are backloaded, with relatively few of them occurring in 2012, to give the economy a little more time to recover. And the domestic cuts are balanced by cuts in defense, which have been traditionally been off-limits. In a plus for health care in general (and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in specific), Medicaid and Social Security are off-limits in both rounds of cuts, for now.

The second round of cuts would be determined by a joint deficit committee, sometimes called a “SuperCongress”. If a joint deficit committee does not come up with enough deficit solutions later this year, a trigger would impose additional across-the-board cuts to domestic and defense spending starting in 2013. The trigger does not include cuts to Medicare beneficiaries (like benefit cuts, cost-sharing increases, or age eligibility changes) but would includes a 2% cut to Medicare providers, which could results in some access issues.

So in the end, this is really just the beginning. It sets up an even higher-stakes battle this fall around the budget and a deficit reduction package, and set up the next election and right afterwards as determinative. The winners of the next election will be have the tools–to make steep cuts to core services (if not to fundamentally end Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs as we know them), or to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire and use that opportunity to achieve significant budget savings. The 2012 election was already going to be decisive, but this deal upped the ante even more.

HOW DID THEY VOTE? California Republican Representatives, including those in leadership like Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Dreier, largely voted for the debt ceiling deal. The three was didn’t were Reps. McClintock, Nunes, and Hunter.

The Democratic caucus was evenly split 95-95, and the same was generally true among Californians, although with more voting against the proposal. California Democratic Representations who voted for the debt ceiling include Minority Leader Pelosi, and (roughly from north to south) Reps. Thompson, Garamendi, Speier, Eshoo, Costa, Capps, Sherman, Berman, Bass, Schiff, Davis, & Loretta Sanchez.

Democrats who voted against the #debtceiling deal included (again, from north to south), Reps. Woolsey, Matsui, Stark, Miller, McNerney, Honda, Lee, Lofgren, Cardoza, Farr, Waxman, Becerra, Hahn, Roybal-Allard, Richardson, Napolitano, Chu, Linda Sanchez, and Filner. Representative Baca did not vote.

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