From Illinois Business Journal news services
WASHINGTON — There was no gala celebration, but there were signs of relief — and perhaps an easing of some long-simmering partisan relations — when House members voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a two-year budget deal and send it to the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, who represents much of Southwestern Illinois, said the deal was not totally palatable, but the best under the circumstances. The Bipartisan Budget Agreement Act of 2015 passed the House by a vote of 266-167.
“Like the American people, I am frustrated by the last-minute bargaining and deal-making process that continues to go on in Washington – it’s no way to govern,” said Davis. “But unfortunately, we have a president and enough Democrats in the Senate who are unwilling to work with us to address this nation’s $18 trillion debt. This deal is not perfect by any means but it does address the drastic cuts made to our military that were never meant to be permanent, while making necessary reforms to entitlement programs – the true drivers of our debt. This bill also repeals yet another harmful part of Obamacare and protects our economy from default.”
Davis said the agreement contains provisions that would drastically reduce the delivery of timely crop insurance violating the 2014 Farm Bill, which he opposes. The Farm Bill already required farmers to take an estimated 30 percent reduction in traditional farm spending and saved taxpayers $23 billion.
“Additionally, I voted for this bill, along with the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, because I have been assured by the leaders of both parties that we will fix the damaging cuts made to crop insurance by this bill. This agreement violates the commitment made to farmers in the 2014 Farm Bill, which already made $23 billion in savings, and will be damaging to our economy. Trying to further balance the budget on the backs of our farmers is wrong and cannot be tolerated.”
Leadership along with House Agriculture Committee leaders have agreed to prevent these cuts from taking place in the spending bill that Congress will need to pass at the end of the year.
Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican who represents the area’s 12th Congressional District, voted for the bill as well, saying it protects the economy from a dangerous debt default, strengthens national security, rolls back onerous Obamacare mandates, and rejects tax increases proposed by the Obama administration.
“While this agreement does not go as far as some of us may have wanted, it does include important reforms and averts a debt default that could have crippled Southern Illinois’ economy,” said Bost. “This legislation includes much-needed funding for our troops, protects seniors from a large spike in their Medicare premiums, and includes important long-term entitlement reforms without raising taxes. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s certainly not the end of the road. I am hopeful that this is a starting point for both parties to finally get serious about addressing the serious fiscal challenges we’re leaving to our children and grandchildren.”
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 provides the following:
– Prevents a dangerous default that would threaten the economy by increasing the debt ceiling through March of 2017;
– Increases the spending cap by $58 billion for the Department of Defense over the next two years;
– Repeals provisions of the President’s health care law by eliminating the law’s auto-enrollment mandate; and
– Secures significant long-term savings from structural entitlement reforms — reforms to the Medicare and the Disability Trust Fund that will produce close to $200 billion in long-term savings while protecting seniors from an increase in their Part “B” premiums.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, weighed in on the likely passage in the Senate. The assistant Senate Democratic leader said he will support the budget agreement.
In a Senate floor speech, he said:
“We have before us a deal that removes the threat of catastrophic sequestration budget cuts for two years and allows our country to meet our financial obligations,” said Durbin.
Durbin announced his support for the deal in a speech highlighting the importance of robust funding for federally funded biomedical and science research. Earlier today, Durbin attended a meeting with Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Senate Democrats to discuss the need for investments in cutting-edge research being performed by the agency. Monday, Durbin also met with Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“In the area of medical research, there’s plenty of room for us to work together, and there’s already leadership shown on the other side of the aisle. When it comes to funding medical research, I’ve found that people of all political stripes agree this is a good investment for the future of America,” Durbin added.
Durbin is the co-chair of the bipartisan Senate NIH Caucus, which aims to preserve our nation’s global competitiveness by highlighting the need for investments in groundbreaking research being performed by the foremost biomedical research institute in the world. NIH directly supports more than 400,000 jobs across the country, and every one dollar of NIH funding generates more than two dollar in local economic growth.
In 2012, 53 percent of all funding for basic research came from the federal government. Yet as a percentage of the total federal budget, the federal government spends two-thirds less on research and development today than it did in 1965. More recently, due to sequestration and flat budgets, NIH has lost nearly 25 percent of its purchasing power since 2003, when adjusted for inflation. At NIH, the percentage of research grants that receive funding has declined almost every year for the past 10 years.