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Conferees Agree on Legislative Branch Spending; House Vote Friday

Updated: 2:28 p.m.House and Senate negotiators agreed to a final version of the legislative branch spending bill Thursday, setting the stage for a House vote on the conferenced bill — and attached continuing resolution — on Friday.The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.On Wednesday night, Democrats attached the CR to the bill in an attempt to get Congress’ own budget passed before the 2010 fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Republicans immediately criticized the move, complaining that by pairing the legislative branch bill with the must-pass CR, Congressional leaders were forcing them to choose between voting for their office budgets or a government shutdown. Republicans offered several amendments during Thursday’s negotiations, including one to prohibit funding for ACORN for the fiscal year and another to stop President Barack Obama’s plans to close the detainee facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. All were defeated on a party-line vote.On Friday, Republicans are likely to air their grievances during the floor debate on the bill, but they are not allowed to offer amendments to an appropriations bill — and, in this case, the attached CR.House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch ranking member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) bemoaned this restriction Wednesday, accusing Democrats of “using this parliamentary gimmick to avoid certain debate or votes on the floor that would occur under the normal CR process.—The House and Senate passed their versions of the legislative branch bill months ago, and the two bills were very similar. It’s a small piece of the appropriations pie — the final version is expected to equal about $5 billion — but it can be controversial because it includes the budget for Congressional staff and legislative branch projects.House Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) voiced that concern Wednesday, arguing that other appropriations bills are more pressing.“Funding the operations of the Capitol and Members’ offices is clearly not the most pressing concern facing the American people,— he said in a statement. “However, it appears members of the Democrat leadership would rather make sure their own expenses are paid before approving funds to build roads, improve water quality, provide food assistance to the hungry, or protect our nation from dangerous criminals and terrorists.—But House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) countered that the bill was “ready to go,— so there was no reason to wait.Republicans, she added, made a similar move, successfully, when in 2006 they attached a CR to the Defense appropriations bill.“What would be more pressing than keeping the government running?— she said. “We need to make sure that in addition to moving our appropriations bill through the process, we also move the CR.—The CR would keep the government running at fiscal 2009 levels for 30 days, giving Members time to pass individual appropriations bills for the next fiscal year.

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