WASHINGTON, D.C. -- New Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard broke ranks with Democratic leaders on Wednesday, voting for a House Republican budget proposal that authorizes funding for the rest of the fiscal year but leaves large sequestration cuts in place for now.

Gabbard's vote also put her at odds with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa -- a rare split within Hawaii's all-Democratic congressional delegation.

The measure passed 267-151, with 53 Democrats voting in support and 137 voting against. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democratic leaders gave members leeway to vote as they chose on the bill and had no problem with Gabbard's vote.

Gabbard, in a statement, called the bill "disappointing" and "far from perfect," but said it would preserve some defense jobs.


The bill would create a new makeshift federal budget, called a Continuing Resolution, to avoid a government shutdown when the previous resolution expires at the end of the month. Pelosi, however, said on the House floor that the Democratic Senate would not support it.

The measure posed a dilemma for Democrats from defense-reliant states like Hawaii. Democratic leaders opposed the bill, because it set funding at a level in keeping with the $85 billion sequestration cuts that went into effect last week.

They argued that it would still mean deep cuts to areas outside of defense, including education and social services, as well as forcing furloughs of air traffic controllers and TSA agents that would mean long delays at airports.

However, the Republican proposal also gave the Department of Defense authority to move $10.4 billion into its operations and maintenance funds. The DOD still faces $46 billion in sequestration cuts, but the department would face even deeper reductions if it could not shift funds to cover a shortfall in its operations budget.

Hanabusa, in fact, had warned last week that Hawaii faced deeper defense cuts than those caused by sequestration if the DOD did not get additional budget flexibility.

On top of the furloughs of 19,000 civilian employees at Pearl Harbor caused by sequestration, the U.S. Navy said it planned to cut an additional 655 temporary civil naval workers nationally, including possibly at Pearl Harbor. The Navy said it would also cancel planned maintenance of aircraft depots, because of the shortfall. That in turn caused defense contractor BAE Systems to send out notices to 250 ship maintenance employees at Pearl Harbor that they may be laid off should the Navy contracts be canceled.

The U.S. Army said an unspecified number of temporary employees in Hawaii may be let go because of the shortfall in the operations fund, separate from sequestration.

Given the choices, Hawaii's two congresswomen parted ways.

Gabbard said in her statement, "The Continuing Appropriations bill that passed the House of Representatives today was disappointing and is far from perfect... I supported the bill today because it provides important funds for our men and women serving overseas, our military-related jobs in Hawaii, and it works to avert a government shutdown, protecting our economy from yet another self-manufactured crisis."

She acknowledged the bill preserves the sequestration cuts: "There is still much work to be done to ensure we are protecting and serving those most in need. I will continue to push for a common-sense plan that strikes a balance between targeted spending cuts and closing unfair tax loopholes for special interests. I'm hopeful the Senate will improve upon this bill and a final bipartisan compromise can be reached to ensure the government remains open at the end of the month."

Hanabusa said the bill does not do enough to offset sequestration, while also leaving cuts in other areas.

"While I support in principle extending funding and also making full-year appropriations for Defense spending and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, this bill does not accomplish what we need to get done," Hanabusa, member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "This measure not only reaffirms sequestration, it does nothing to remove sequestration."

"With defense absorbing a large portion of the across-the-board (sequestration) cuts and lacking the ability to transfer funds, Hawaii would have difficulty reversing some of the impacts we have already seen on the defense industry, like the furloughs at Schofield Barracks," she said.

She said a proposal she introduced last week, which would have given the Defense Department more flexibility to shift funds to the operations and maintenance budget, would do more to offset the sequestration cuts. She also believes other agencies should have the same ability to ease the impact of the cuts.

Hanabusa and Gabbard declined to address each other's votes.

The split came just two days after Hawaii's congressional delegation met for the first time to coordinate. "Our meeting today is just one of many we will hold to determine how best we can serve the people of Hawaii together," Gabbard had said.

The following is an excerpt from Civil Beat, To view the full article, click here.