Friday, 08 April 2011

House Approves Controversial Stopgap; WH Warns of Veto

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With little time remaining before a government shutdown, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 247-181 to approve a stopgap funding measure in spite of a veto threat from the White House. If approved in the Senate and signed by the President, the measure will fund the federal government through April 15, while funding the Pentagon through the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

As of now, it does not seem likely that it will pass. According to The Hill:

The Senate is not expected to consider the measure, and the White House said it would veto the bill earlier on Thursday. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio, pictured) said he told President Obama he was disappointed about the veto promise during a meeting with the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The measure passed in a largely partisan vote, though 15 Democrats did manage to vote in line with the Republicans, while six Republicans opposed the measure, including Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Steve King (R-Iowa), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Republicans opposed to the bill have articulated concerns over the increased military funding and meager spending cuts. Some are responding to calls from constitutionalists not to support stopgap measures that do not advocate sufficient spending cuts, or ones that do not eliminate ObamaCare spending.

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said on the organization's social networking website last month, “If Speaker Boehner will not work to eliminate the Obamacare spending, then we must work to get a new Speaker in 2012 and a new Representative from Ohio’s eighth district.”

Similarly, the Heritage Foundation has encouraged lawmakers to stop approving short-term continuing resolutions, declaring it to be mere “political gamesmanship that could jeopardize conservative spending goals for both 2011 and 2012.”

An open letter from the Heritage Foundation to Congress reads:

This has always been Senator Reid's endgame strategy: continually pushing short-term CRs to move this fight back far enough that it starts to overlap with conservative attempts to use the FY2012 budget debate and debt-ceiling debate as opportunities to get our nation's fiscal house in order.

Senator Reid's strategy is intended to blur the lines, confuse the public and substantially weaken conservatives' negotiating hand on both the FY2012 budget and the debt-limit increase. Therefore, we believe conservatives must prevent him from executing this strategy if we are start moving our country back towards fiscal responsibility.

Once again, the vote on the measure indicates a clear divide between true fiscal conservatives and the establishment GOP.

Lawmakers resorted to the same tireless talking points during debate leading to the final vote. Republicans supporting the bill contended that those who opposed it were voting against the troops.

For example, Boehner said of the measure:

There’s no policy reason for the Senate to oppose this responsible troop funding bill that keeps the government running. It reflects a bicameral, bipartisan agreement that was reached in December regarding the troop funding bill, and no Senator has objected to the policy in this bill.

Likewise, Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky declared, “If you vote against this bill, you are voting against the troops, who are engaged in three wars.”

Democrats resumed accusations that the Republicans were guilty of “ransom” — this time, however, of trying to “ransom” the government by forcing the Democrats to approve spending cuts (as opposed to ransoming the middle class in order to secure tax cuts for the rich. See debate talking points leading up to tax cut compromise vote).

Opposition to the bill focuses on the costs, though Democrats and Republicans who are opposed to the bill view the cuts very differently. The measure cuts $12 billion in discretionary spending while increasing military funding, thereby trimming a measly $4.4 billion in current spending.

Some are also opposed to the language in the bill that bars the use of local government funds to pay for abortion services.

The climate in the room prior to the vote proved to be rather raucous. When House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) repeatedly questioned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on whether Republicans would support a “clean” spending bill that does not make the additional cuts sought by Republicans, Cantor responded, “I would say to the gentleman, no. We don’t accept the status quo.” Republicans in the House erupted in cheers at Cantor’s response.

Hoyer proved to be the feistiest Congressman opposed to the bill, as he offered a motion to recommit the measure in lieu of a clean extension of government spending. Republicans responded by raising a point of order against Hoyer’s motion, prompting him to appeal the point of order. In the end, however, Republicans voted to table the appeal, 236-187.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to try to force a vote on the measure by the end of the week, taking advantage of the minimal timeframe that potentially could force Democrats to vote.

Photo: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, flanked by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., right, and Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 8, 2011: AP Images

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