US House votes to keep government open; SWFL Reps. Rooney, Steube oppose, Diaz-Balart approves

The US House vote to keep govenrment open. (Image:C-SPAN)

Sept. 23, 2020, by David Silverberg

By an overwhelming majority, the US House of Representatives voted last night to keep the government operating until Dec. 11.

The bill, House Resolution 8337, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) continues to fund the government at existing levels past the Oct. 1 start of the new 2021 federal fiscal year at roughly $1.4 trillion.

The vote in the House was 359 to 57, with one member, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY), voting “present.”

Of Southwest Florida’s representatives, Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against the bill. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted in favor.

The bill was the subject of long and contentious negotiations, with the White House insisting on including aid to farmers through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Democrats were concerned the farm aid would actually be used by the administration to assist the oil and energy industry and also feared that President Donald Trump would use the CCC funds as what some termed a “slush fund” to buy votes with aid to farmers hurt by his trade wars.

The final agreement reached between House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Republicans added safeguards against abuse of CCC funding and added $8 billion in nutrition assistance for needy families and schoolchildren.

“To help the millions of families struggling to keep food on the table during the pandemic, Democrats have renewed the vital, expiring lifeline of Pandemic EBT [Electronic Benefits Transfer] for a full year and enabled our fellow Americans in the territories to receive this critical nutrition assistance,” Pelosi said in a statement.

In a brief statement, Rooney explained his opposition vote:

“This continuing resolution contains an excessive amount of spending which far exceeds what we need for Covid relief at a time when the government is already trillions in debt. Congress has not passed a budget for three years.  This abject lack of fiscal responsibility has pushed our country to the brink, with over $26 trillion in debt. Our children and grandchildren will suffer from our profligate spending. We have corrupted the ethic upon which our country was built; this wasteful spending must stop.

“I have continually fought against the irresponsible, excessive and injudicious appropriations from both parties. I have voted against legislation like this in the past and will continue to vote against it in the future. We simply cannot afford to be increasing government spending when we should be making cuts to reduce the deficit.”

Neither Diaz-Balart nor Steube issued statements explaining their votes.

The government shut down for 35 days in January 2019 following a similar budget standoff. At that time, Trump was insisting on funding for his border wall.

In Southwest Florida the government shutdown also meant a shutdown of national parks and preserves like Everglades National Park and a halt to US Coast Guard operations in local waters. It was also responsible for an estimated $11 billion in costs to the US economy, of which $3 billion was permanent.

This year, among its many other effects, a shutdown had the potential to disrupt federal monitoring of conditions leading to harmful algal blooms in Southwest Florida.

The bill has gone to the Senate, where it is considered likely to pass, given its overwhelming approval in the House and the desire of members to avoid a government shutdown on the eve of the election. Trump is expected to sign it.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

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