Posted by R. Neal

Democrats (!) and a ragtag band of moderate Republicans in Congress today handed the GOP and the Bush agenda a major defeat by smacking down a spending bill that would have cut funding for education and social programs to make up for more tax cuts:

The 224-209 vote against the $142.5 billion spending bill disrupted plans by Republican leaders to finish up work on this year's spending bills and cast doubt on whether they would have the votes to pass a major budget-cutting bill also on the day's agenda.

Democrats, unanimous in opposing the legislation, said it included the first cut in education funding in a decade and slashed spending for several health care programs. "It betrays our nation's values and its future," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. "It is neither compassionate, conservative nor wise."

Sounds like Bush has spent all his political capital and now he's running a deficit almost as big as the federal budget deficit.

But wait, there's more:

Legislation aimed at strengthening traditional corporate pensions and shoring up the deficit-ridden pension insurance agency was easily approved by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday with a generous exemption for struggling airlines.

Senators gave distressed airlines up to 20 years to repair their underfunded pension plans, in addition to the seven years provided by the bill to all companies to fix pension shortfalls.

A similar bill rewriting pension rules has passed two House committees but contains no special relief for airlines.

The Senate bill, which passed 97-2, would require companies sponsoring pensions to set aside more money for retirees over time and pay higher premiums to the deficit-ridden agency that insures the plans, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC).

97 to 2? Why, that sounds positively bi-partisan. And almost progressive, what with making all these corporations (except maybe airlines) actually pay their bills and fulfill their commitments to their workers instead of dumping them on taxpayers. I'm guessing, though, that the GOP went along because it's pretty hard to argue for privatizing eliminating Social Security when the "free market" isn't doing such a swell job helping people prepare for retirement. Democrats went along because, well, because it's the right thing to do.

OK, then.