The House on Thursday approved a bipartisan budget accord and a Pentagon policy bill that would strengthen protections for victims of sexual assault. But as it wrapped up its business for the year, it left unfinished a major piece of domestic policy — the farm bill — making it likely that Congress will not deal with it until January.
Republicans and Democrats hope the budget pact, which passed 332 to 94, will act as a truce in the spending battles that have paralyzed Congress for nearly three years, and leaders in both parties sought to marginalize hard-line conservatives opposed to any compromise.
The defense measure would, in addition to strengthening protections for military victims of sexual assault, leave open the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, over President Obama’s objections.
The provisions to stem the growing number of sexual assault cases in the military are the most expansive in years. They would include new rules to prevent commanding officers from overturning sexual assault verdicts.
But an agreement remained elusive on the farm bill, the subject of continuing disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over spending for food stamps and expanding crop insurance for farmers, among other issues. All the House could pass on Thursday was a simple one-month extension of the current law, which Senate Democrats oppose because they think it will distract from the completion of a new bill.
Earlier, with bipartisan support in hand, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio declared open warfare on the outside conservative groups that tried to scuttle the budget deal. For the second day in a row, he accused groups like the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity of reflexively opposing a reasonable plan to try to raise their profiles and improve their fund-raising.
He said the groups had devised the strategy of linking further government spending to the repeal of President Obama’s health care law, then pressing their members and House Republicans to go along, even though they knew it would shut down the government and ultimately fail.
“Are you kidding me?” the speaker shouted, denouncing opposition to the budget accord. “There comes a point where some people step over the line. When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility.””
– The New York Times, "House Passes Budget Pact and Military Abuse Protections, But Not Farm Bill"