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Daily Briefing's David Hawkings: GOP Sticks To Budget Plans, For Now

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Time for change before budget deadline

Republicans lost the House seat in a special election New York for the first time in years. Democrats are calling it a referendum on the Republican budget plan and proposed changes to Medicare. But Hawkings says the GOP isn't scaling back efforts as a result -- at least not any time soon.

"Republicans deny that this was a referendum on Medicare. They say that it was the particulars of that particular part of upstate New York and the fact that a third candidate was running," he says.

The Senate took a test vote on the Medicare plan the day of the special election, which the House had already passed. Hawkings says only four Republicans backed down from the plan. A fifth Republican, Rand Paul, voted against it because he said it didn't go far enough.

Ten weeks from now is the deadline for the debt ceiling increase.

"That's an awful long time in congressional negotiating world," Hawkings says. "So there's still plenty of time for the Republicans to change their mind."

Senate stays in session

The Senate was suppose to be on recess next week, but those plans have changed, technically. Senators are free to go home, and most will, Hawkings says.

By keeping the session open, the president cannot use his recess appointment power to fill certain jobs for a limited amount of time. Three days constitutes a "recess," so Republicans have insisted that Senators come in every three days for one minute so the president can't fill their jobs.

Gaping hole on MLK Boulevard

The House is set to consider a Homeland Security spending bill next week, which provides no money to continue construction on the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. Without funding, a nine-foot hole could remain on Martin Luther King Boulevard at the site of the old Saint Elizabeth Hospital.

"It's the biggest public works project in the city," Hawkings says. "It's certainly an enormous boon for the Anacostia area if it gets built."

He says they've spent $77 million on the project this year, but House Republicans say there isn't enough money in the budget to continue construction. Hawkings notes that the Homeland Security, "which essentially couldn't spend the money fast enough after it was created after Sept. 11, has joined the ranks of all the other departments in the government in having to fight for every dollar."

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