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House Democrats Break Ranks With Pelosi in Voting for Stopgap CR

With the White House and Senate Democrats conceding to House GOP demands in order to pass a two-week spending bill to avert a government shutdown, House Democrats defected in droves and backed the bill Tuesday despite misgivings.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and 103 other Democrats broke ranks with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) by voting in favor of the bill, which would cut federal spending by $4 billion. The continuing resolution that is currently funding the government expires Friday, and the stopgap would buy the House and Senate more time to work out a spending measure to cover the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Democratic aides said Tuesday that with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Senate Democrats backing the stopgap, House Democrats decided it was better to avoid a shutdown and spend their energy on fighting the GOP over the longer-term bill.

Democrats are “focused on the long term, so the thought was to keep government open while we work out a long-term compromise,” a senior Democratic aide said.

Even before Tuesday’s vote, top Democrats were looking toward a resumption of the fight over a longer-term bill. The House on Feb. 19 passed a Republican-authored fiscal 2011 spending bill that would cut spending by $61 billion from current levels. Reid has called that measure a non-starter, and the Senate is expected to significantly change it.

“We must move this process forward, so the government does not shut down and that we must reduce the deficit,” Pelosi said in a floor statement. “As we do that, we must create jobs and strengthen the middle class. That is someplace where we may have some separation.”
Speaking to reporters before Tuesday’s vote, Hoyer argued that short-term spending measures would be disruptive and called for a bill that covers the remainder of fiscal 2011.

“Funding government on 14-day increments is an extraordinarily inefficient, unproductive, demoralizing, unacceptable way to run the largest enterprise in the world,” he said. “It disrupts both the public sector, but, more importantly, it is extraordinarily disruptive of the private sector. No one can plan effectively for good policy based upon 14-day authorizations.”

Democrats were also sharpening their partisan knives. Pelosi cautioned that Republicans may attempt to move massive cuts under a “sanctimonious attitude, that it is a morality for us to do exactly the same thing again, ignoring again the tremendous, tremendous suffering of the American people and their need for jobs, ignoring the aspiration of our children and their need for education by making the cuts that are in here without rechanneling them to a better place.”

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