New York Times: Lobbyists Won Key Concessions in Budget Deal

Written by admin on April 14th, 2011

An example of the last minute horse-trading that led to the current budget agreement.  A lobby wins a battle at the eleventh hour.

New York Times

Even delivered in shorthand, the call’s meaning was clear to Mr. Wyden: a health care plan he had succeeded in getting passed months earlier despite furious lobbying by big business and labor had been pulled out of the blue and killed as part of the broader budget deal struck between the White House and Congress. What was most perplexing was that it had little to do with budgets or government shutdowns.

“I was flabbergasted, just flabbergasted,” Mr. Wyden, of Oregon, said Tuesday in an interview, describing the demise of a plan that would have allowed some 300,000 workers to pick their own insurance coverage through employer-financed vouchers.

With $38 billion in cuts on the line in a $3.5 trillion budget, the clash over federal spending played out in numbers so big that most standard calculators had trouble tracking all the zeros. But in the end, a handful of relatively small-bore line items affecting particular industries attracted some of the most aggressive lobbying behind the scenes, as business interests, health care providers and others fought to hold on to, or kill, proposals that affected their bottom line.

Much public attention focused on the social issues that appeared in the spending bill in the final weeks as social conservatives tried to use it to advance their causes, particularly the unsuccessful effort by abortion opponents to cut the financing of Planned Parenthood. In the end, the budget agreement reached late Friday night banned the District of Columbia from using its own money to provide abortions for low-income women in the city — a measure with a bigger social impact than fiscal.

But there was also intense but ultimately unsuccessful lobbying by General Electric and other military contractors to revive financing for an alternate engine for a costly jet fighter project. Proponents of tougher regulations for the politically influential and beleaguered commercial college industry succeeded, for now, in beating back an effort to block restrictions on how the schools get federal aid.


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