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Democrats and the Budget Extension

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Obama's FY2012 Budget Delivered To Congress (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY), who voted 'no' on the three-week federal budget extension, and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), who voted 'yes,' discussed the budget battles in Washington.

The House of Representatives passed a budget extension yesterday that funds the government through April 8 but cuts $6 billion from Fiscal 2011 spending levels. The final vote was 271 to 158, with 104 Democrats voting 'no' to the budget extension, mostly because they were against the elimination of 25 federal programs, and 85 voting 'yes' to avoid a government shutdown. As for the Republicans, the majority were in favor but some voted 'no' because they felt the budget wasn't severe enough.

Congressman Eliot Engle (D-NY) remembered the government shutdown of 1995 and said he voted 'yes' in order to avoid damaging the country. He's still unhappy with the budget though, and said if Republicans don't compromise in three weeks he might not vote to approve another extension.

I don't like the cuts, I think the premise of the cuts is wrong, I think the Republicans think you can balance the budget just by cutting programs, discretionary non-defense programs. That cannot happen, they're lying to themselves and their supporters. We're going to have to look at lots and lots of things, it cannot just be programs that Democrats like.

Engle is hopeful that some of the 25 programs can be restored in the final budget. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) is less optimistic.

What I have found with the Republicans in the majority is that they're reckless, they're heartless, and they're not trying to look at ways in which we can balance the burden that our nation faces right now.

Clarke said she voted 'no' because the cuts are to basic services that will directly affect her constituents in a negative way, giving the example of the elimination of Head Start program funding when her constituents are trying to improve their educational achievement. She didn't relish being in the same "camp" as Republicans who want even deeper cuts.

Voting 'no' for me meant that we need to send a message to our constituents that we are fighting against what is happening to them. The misery factor in all of our communities is going to go up exponentially as we go through this agonizing process as we cut the nation's budget. We have yet to touch defense spending and in many cases we're funding obsolete weaponry just to keep certain parts of the country employed. There needs to be a shared burden here. Until I see that I'm going to stay in the 'no' camp.

Both Clarke and Engle faulted the Republicans for putting the burden on middle class people while retaining tax cuts for the wealthy and not venturing to cut defense spending, which is over $663 billion, accounting for about 20 percent of federal outlays. Engle: 

They're saying that all these average people have to suffer, and everybody's got to bear the pain, but when it comes to their rich friends they somehow think that there shouldn't be any pain there.

Engle finds the stalemate in Congress worse now than it was in the Gingrich years. He said at that time Republicans realized you had to compromise down the line.

A lot of these guys, they're just uncompromising. They're true believers, they think they have the right way and I worry about that.

Well, Clarke said she was willing to take a hard line too.

If it takes a shut down of the government for people to come to their senses, or as President Obama says, for the adults to get into the room then perhaps that's what it will take.

With just a three week extension, you can count on more Congressional budget bickering to begin immediately.

Guests:

Yvette Clarke and Rep. Eliot Engle

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Comments [7]

Olivia from New York

A question for all those advocating military action in Libya: would you vote to increase taxes to support this action? If you say yes, then why is it you support increasing taxes for war but not for education, infrastructure, innovation and our countries future health? If you say no you are shifting the burden to pay for it from those who can afford it to those who can't. Let's stop the hypocracy right here. Besides, haven't we paid a heavy enought price for "intervention?" We don't need another quagmire. It's time for others to try to get this right.

Mar. 17 2011 11:12 AM
kitten from brooklyn

what's the point of a having a bloated military budget if the army isn't deployed to overthrow an Arab tyrant sitting on giant oil reserves who is actively engaged in a war with his own people?

Has a single penny been shaved off the military budget? They could easily form an alliance to at least create a No-Fly zone.

Mar. 17 2011 10:30 AM
Marcos from the bronx

Tax the rich!

Mar. 17 2011 10:25 AM
John from office

The world is ready to fight till the last American.

Ms. Clarkes "people" are the cause of our decline. No ambition, looking for a handout, resulting in the backlash. Democrates would lose their votes with the end of the handout,

Mar. 17 2011 10:24 AM
CL from New York

Both of them make me sick (and I am a long-time Democrat voter). Neither is a leader. They trade in platitudes, cliches, and inanities. Not a single, fact-based, reasoned idea. Don't they have anyone on their staffs with a brain and a morsel of imagination? Typical pandering, and perfect examples of what's wrong with Congress. And if I hear another politician begin a sentence with "Listen" or "Look," I think I will vomit. Not only are they bankrupt of ideas and initiative, they are impossibly presumptuous and downright rude.

Mar. 17 2011 10:23 AM
Steve from Manhattan

This is why many of us life-long Democrats have left the party -- it is the spineless Democrats like Engel, who list the Republican shortcomings and understand the long term consequences, and yet still vote against their own conscience and probably the needs of their constituency because of FEAR. Fear of public opinion should there be a shut down allows them to enable the Republicans.

I say, SHUT DOWN the government and control the message so America knows that this is a Republican shut-down. Let the blame fall where it will... and let the voters then decide...

Good for Yvette Clarke!!

Mar. 17 2011 10:21 AM
Amy from Manhattan

"Those who aspire to be middle-class"? Is that the newest euphemism for "poor"? "Poor" is not a dirty word!

Mar. 17 2011 10:18 AM

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