California senator: We need to move on to long-range spending issues

6:41 PM, Apr 14, 2011   |    comments
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By PAUL C. BARTON
Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein on Thursday threw their support behind the congressional agreement on 2011 federal spending, the deal struck last Friday night that narrowly precluded a government shutdown.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, also endorsed the deal, which won final approval Thursday from the House and Senate.

When signed by President Barack Obama, the measure, known as a continuing resolution, will fund the federal government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Feinstein, D-San Francisco, said it was time to move on to long-range spending issues.

"If the federal budget were $1, Congress has been arguing over 1 cent,'' Feinstein, who is up for re-election next year, said of the 2011 agreement. "We must conclude this process and move quickly to pass a 2012 budget and appropriations bills that begin to deal with the deficit.'"

Boxer, D-Rancho Mirage, said getting rid of language that called for ending federal funding for family planning programs and Planned Parenthood remained key for her.

"Today we stopped a frontal assault on women's health and protected the ability of millions of Americans, including seniors, to access affordable health care,'' Boxer said.

"While I did not agree with everything in this budget, we averted a disastrous government shutdown, preserved the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to enforce our landmark environmental laws, and protected critical investments in education, medical research and other priorities while reducing the deficit."

"While I would have preferred to see even larger cuts - especially to non-essential government spending - the agreement approved today by the House will still reduce total federal spending by an estimated $315 billion over 10 years," Bono Mack said. "This year alone, we have cut $78.5 billion from what President Obama requested in his budget."

She also said, "Clearly, we have a lot more work to do, but this is an important first step in reining in excessive government spending and getting Americans back to work again.'"

Bono Mack still hasn't said whether she would support a long-range deficit-reduction plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Another Palm Springs-area Republican, Rep. Jerry Lewis of Redlands, joined Mack in supporting the 2011 agreement while reserving judgment on Ryan's plan.

Lewis spokesman Jim Specht said he supported the continuing resolution because "the spending bill is six months behind schedule, and the bill reduces spending by a record level of $39 billion. Over the next decade, spending will be reduced by $315 billion because of the lower levels brought about by these cuts."

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, opposed the resolution.

"The results of a government shutdown would have been devastating to our weak economy and to millions of seniors, veterans and families that depend on a functioning government. While I am relieved Congress and President Obama were able to reach an agreement on funding for the rest of the year, I am disappointed that such a high price must now be paid,'' Farr said.

"We all agree that we have a responsibility to get our fiscal house in order, but slashing away at funding that safeguards our food supply and keeps food on the table of the most vulnerable is not the balanced solution we need."

Meanwhile, Feinstein joined Boxer and Farr in saying opposing Ryan's plan.

"The Paul Ryan-tea party budget is a total nonstarter,'' Feinstein said. "This ideological plan is totally irresponsible. It digs us deeper into debt with $1 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy, but $2.2 trillion in cuts to health care. The Ryan plan dismantles Medicare as we know it, forcing seniors to pay more than twice as much out-of-pocket as they would under the current system."

She added: "It cuts the social and economic safety net for vulnerable Americans and increases the number of uninsured by 34 million people. The Ryan budget slashes $127 billion in food stamps. Bottom line: it is an attempt to shift the entire burden of reducing the deficit on seniors, children, and middle-class California families, and I oppose it."

Boxer has also strongly criticized the Ryan plan.

Gannett Washington Bureau

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