By Paul B. Johnson, The High Point Enterprise, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 14--TRIAD -- Two congressmen representing High Point who had nothing to lose politically from their vote on a compromise federal budget bill went different directions on the House floor Thursday night.

Rep. Howard Coble, R-6th, who announced last month he is retiring for health reasons at the age of 82, voted with the majority of the House to approve the measure. Rep. Mel Watt, D-12th, who will leave Congress soon after being confirmed this week by the Senate to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, was among a relative handful of Democrats to oppose the legislation.

The compromise federal budget bill to avoid another federal government shutdown -- as took place in October -- passed the House 332-94. The deal minimizes the effect of automatic spending cuts put in place during 2011 -- known as the sequester -- and avoids a repeat of a shutdown for the next two years.

A breakdown of the vote shows that 169 Republicans supported the bill while 62 voted against the measure. Almost an equivalent number of Democrats -- 163 -- supported the measure, while 32 Democrats objected. Seven members of Congress didn't vote.

The breakdown of the North Carolina congressional delegation was eight in favor and five opposed. The measure now goes to the Senate and, if approved there, to President Barack Obama, who has said he will sign the bill.

Here are some statements from area congressional representatives explaining their votes:

Rep. Howard Coble, R-6th -- "It addressed (avoiding) a subsequent shutdown of government. If that happened, inevitably Republicans are going to get blamed for it whether we are to blame for it or not.

"Also, no tax increase. All in all, I think it resulted in a more orderly path to fiscal sanity."

Rep. Mel Watt, D-12th -- "I voted against the two-year budget agreement that passed the House ... While the agreement eased the indiscriminate, across-the-board sequester cuts by $63 billion for 2014 and 2015, it didn't make the difficult choices that would allow us to replace the sequester and reduce deficits and debt responsibly.

"The budget agreement also failed to extend emergency unemployment insurance to 1.3 million people who are trying to find jobs in a difficult economy. The vote on the budget agreement was among my last as a member of Congress and it was consistent with my long-standing advocacy for a balanced approach to deficit reduction and protecting our most vulnerable citizens."

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8th -- "The House passed a budget that reduces the deficit without raising taxes. This budget resolution is a step towards achieving economic security for hard-working Americans. It eliminates waste, provides real reforms and protects our defense community by replacing sequestration's indiscriminate across-the-board cuts with responsible cuts in mandatory spending programs.

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"While the resolution is far from perfect, it is responsible governance and enables us to return to a regular appropriations process where we can negotiate bills and get real, conservative policy enacted."

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd -- "Last night, I voted for an important first step in producing a sound budget that will fund the government over the next two years and restore economic certainty to our country over time.

"This budget restores the ability for Congress to control the purse strings. By operating without a budget for the past several years, the government has been funded through continuing resolutions, allowing the White House to direct funding to all sorts of unnecessary programs."

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th -- "For the first time in years the federal government is on its way to having a budget. It's not the budget I would write myself, but it's a budget much stronger and smarter than the status quo, and it's a budget that has my support.

"(The) budget agreement provides a framework to reduce the federal deficit an additional $23 billion beyond current law, and it does so without raising taxes. It is a step forward that in this divided government House Republicans were able to have a budget debate framed by our principles -- that Washington must live within its means and spend less, not that Americans must surrender to government more of their hard-earned money."

[email protected] -- 888-3528


(c)2013 The High Point Enterprise (High Point, N.C.)

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