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Senate on funding: a dog that didn’t bark in the night

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone

The Democratic-majority Senate has meekly accepted the Republican-controlled House’s decision to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year at sequester levels. The continuing resolution that the Senate passed did provide spending flexibility to more departments than the House bill did and it looks like the House is going to accept those changes. But the bottom line is that the House is in control of the level of spending for the rest of this fiscal year and probably for the one beginning October 1, at levels below that desired by Senate Democrats and the Democratic president.

It’s a result in line with the Constitution’s tendency to give leverage over government finance to the House, through the provision requiring tax bills to originate in that chamber. The House Republican leadership has proceeded deftly here, avoiding brinksmanship which would alienate public opinion but achieving a (limited) positive policy result from their point of view.

The House has passed Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget and presumably the Senate will pass the very different budget sponsored by Budget Chairman Patty Murray. The chances that they will be reconciled in conference appear to be zero. Looking ahead, it seems likely that for the next fiscal year House Republicans will continue to hold spending to sequester levels and that the Senate and the president will reluctantly accept that. Sherlock Holmes famously drew an inference from the failure of the dog to bark in the night. The Senate’s meek acquiescence in the House’s funding levels is a dog that didn’t bark in the night.

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