Vermont Congressional Delegation Won't Support GOP Short Term Budget Plan

Jan 18, 2018

The three member of Vermont's congressional delegation say they will vote against a short term funding bill if the plan doesn't maintain a balance between domestic and military spending and  if it doesn't include an immigration reform proposal.

If there's a government shutdown this weekend, they say Republicans will be to blame.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the leading Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the onus to pass a responsible budget bill rests solely on the Republicans because they control both houses of Congress.

"They could keep the government open or they can shut it down,” says Leahy. “They're the only ones that have the power to do that, it's going to look really foolish for them to try to blame Democrats.” 

"They could keep the government open or they can shut it down, they're the only ones that have the power to do that, it's going to look really foolish for them to try to blame Democrats."—Sen. Patrick Leahy

One of the key issues for Leahy is keeping a bi-partisan agreement that maintains parity for all domestic and military spending.

"You can't say we'll build some exotic weapons system but we won't do anything about kids who are dying of opioid poisoning here in the United States,” he says. “We're a big enough country we can deal with both, I'm not going to vote for something that doesn't."  

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee, agrees.

Sanders says it's critical to provide legal status for so-called Dreamers. These are the children of undocumented workers who came to this country with their parents.

About 800 thousand Dreamers registered for legal status under the Obama Administration. This fall, President Trump announced plans to deport them.

"Subjecting them to deportation, subjecting them to being taken away from the only country they have ever known and loved is literally beyond comprehension and unspeakable," said Sanders, speaking on the Senate floor. 

"I want to keep the lights on but will I abdicate my responsibility to have us do what Vermont needs and what the country needs in the budget process and just accept what are really damaging provisions - that I couldn't do."— Rep. Peter Welch

On the House side, Rep. Peter Welch sponsored a letter signed by 171 members of the  Democratic caucus. It urged Republican leaders to include a number of the Democrats' budget priorities in the short term funding bill.

"I want to keep the lights on but will I abdicate my responsibility to have us do what Vermont needs and what the country needs in the budget process and just accept what are really damaging provisions? That I couldn't do," says Welch. 

Welch notes this is the fourth time in a row that Republicans have proposed a short-term spending plan instead of passing an annual budget.

"So it would be in Vermont terms like the town of Windsor passed a budget every 30 days; so how's the fire department going to plan its activities, or the school department and that's what we're inflicting on uncertainty on governmental functions down here," says Welch. 

Welch says House Speaker Paul Ryan has put himself in a difficult position by insisting that any budget bill be able to pass the House with just Republican support.

Welch says this means the conservative House Freedom Caucus can require the inclusion of policies that will mean that no Democrat will vote for the bill.

While this strategy might work in the House, Welch says it sets up a process in the Senate that is doomed to fail because Republicans in that chamber need at least some Democratic votes to pass a bill.