Completing their last act in Washington, D.C., before returning home for November's elections, Tennessee lawmakers offered differing votes on a $500 billion measure to continue funding the federal government for the first six months of the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Members of the House passed their version of the funding bill first. While Rep. Chuck Fleischmann voted in favor of the continuing resolution, Rep. Scott DesJarlais said he could not support it because the spending limit within the resolution exceeded the Rep. Paul Ryan-sponsored budget his colleagues passed last year by $19 billion.
The congressman then lambasted his Democratic colleagues, particularly in the Senate, for not approving a budget in more than three years.
"It has been almost four years since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has last passed a budget," DesJarlais said. "How can we expect to get our nation's spiraling debt under control without a long-term budgetary road map in place? My constituents are tired of shutdown threats, continuing resolutions and omnibus bills. They expect Congress to do its job and pass a budget on time and in a fiscally responsible manner."
DesJarlais was one of 70 Republicans who voted to oppose the measure, which was approved on a vote of 329-91. Among GOP members lending their votes to approve the measure was Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, whose spokesman said that his vote was part of an effort to provide "limited funding for key government services," such as ensuring that troops serving abroad were paid.
Alek Vey, press secretary for Fleischmann, also suggested that the congressman thought voters, not their elected lawmakers, would ultimately have the final say on the course of how budgetary discussions played out in Washington, D.C.
"Rep. Fleischmann believes that the American people will ultimately determine our level of spending this November, and he is focused on electing a conservative majority that will do the hard work to reduce spending, something President Obama has failed to achieve," Vey said.
The Senate version of the bill, passed in the early morning hours Saturday, offered a split vote for Tennessee's senators as well. While Sen. Lamar Alexander voted with the minority of his GOP colleagues in favor of the measure, Sen. Bob Corker joined 29 Republicans to vote against it.
In a news release, Corker pointed at the Senate's inability to pass a budget in 1,241 days as the primary reason for his decision to not support the resolution to continue funding the government.
"We haven't passed a budget in more than three years, and not a single appropriations bill has been brought to the floor this year, so I don't believe we should be considering a continuing resolution or any spending bill until we have done the basic job of prioritizing how taxpayer dollars are spent and at what levels," Corker said. "If the Senate can't perform its most basic responsibilities, I worry about how we're going to make the tough decisions and do the hard work that will be necessary to get our country on a path to fiscal solvency."
Alexander, along with 11 of his GOP Senate colleagues, voted in favor of the bill. Speaking to reporters Monday, Alexander said he did not take issue with Corker's opposition and that he was able to support the measure because it fell under guidelines set forth by the Budget Control Act of 2011, put in place to solve that summer's standoff over raising the federal debt ceiling.
"I respect Sen. Corker's position, and he and I have talked about that," Alexander said. "He takes the position that until we pass a budget, he's not going to support any appropriations bills. I've supported the bills, as long as they're under the Budget Control Act, because I want us to move forward and not have a government shutdown."
The bill now moves to the desk of President Barack Obama, where he is expected to sign it.
Lawmakers will return to Washington for a lame duck session following November's elections.
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