Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gerry Connolly Votes For Budget Compromise

As the budget compromise headed to a vote in the House of Representatives today, there was a lot of buzz about how many Republicans would vote against the CR. Despite the constant talk about the divisions in the GOP caucus, however, there was never really any doubt that it’d pass the House because there were a number of Democrats who were likely going to vote in favor of the bill. As the bill passed on a vote 260-167 today, Gerry Connolly was one of the 89 Democrats who supported it.

Although he did speak out about some of the cuts to important programs contained in the CR, he said one of the main reasons he voted yea was the inclusion of $150 million in “desperately-needed funding for Metro capital improvements and transportation projects to deal with 22,000 new workers coming to Fort Belvoir due to BRAC.” This shouldn’t be too surprising because Gerry has been working since February to restore cuts to Metro that the GOP proposed.

In the Republicans’ original short-term budget bill (HR 1), the GOP eliminated the annual $150 million payment for Metro that is matched by $50 million each from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.In an effort to save the funding, Connolly offered an amendment on the House floor, wrote to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell urging him to weigh in with the entire Virginia congressional delegation, communicated the urgency of the matter with his Senate colleagues, and lobbied the White House and the House leadership to ensure the funding was included in the final compromise spending bill that came to the House floor today.

When the Republican budget plan came to the floor in mid-February, Connolly offered the amendment, supported by most of the Washington-area congressional delegation, to restore the annual $150 million payment to Metro. During debate on his amendment, Connolly argued that, “The effort by Republicans to eliminate the fiscal year 2011 federal payment to Metro is an egregious abrogation of the contract Congress made with Virginia, Maryland, and DC. It jeopardizes everything we’ve tried to do, in a bipartisan manner, to improve Metro safety.”

Since the funding was supposed to match the funds donated by Virginia and other local states, Connolly decided to put some pressure on the GOP by writing Governor McDonnell and urging him to use his relationships with Republican leaders to restore the federal funding. Although it took him some time and public pressure, McDonnell eventually followed Gerry’s lead for standing up against the cuts and wrote a letter to the Republican Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, and the Virginia delegation in support of the funding. McDonnell also raised Connolly’s concerns at a March meeting he held on Capitol Hill with the entire Virginia delegation.

Even though the cuts would have a devastating impact on the economy in Northern Virginia and the ability of people to get to work (including members of the federal workforce), the GOP’s leadership refused to listen and the funding wasn’t included in the GOP’s CR. Considering how the GOP wasn’t showing any interest in honoring federal commitments, the budget compromise represented a rare opportunity to make sure the funding was actually in place. That is why, despite all the drastic cuts to other crucial programs, Gerry’s vote on the CR is one that even opponents of the compromise should understand.

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