Cantor Claims Bipartisan Support for Stopgap in Senate

Posted April 7, 2011 at 3:58pm

Updated: 5:20 p.m.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor angrily dismissed Senate Democratic leaders’ objections to the GOP’s one-week spending bill on Thursday afternoon, and he accused them of opposing it on purely political grounds.

The Virginia Republican contended that there is bipartisan support in the Senate for the bill, which the House passed with the support of 15 Democrats on Thursday afternoon.

“It is utterly unfathomable why Democrats in the Senate and the White House don’t recognize the fiscal crisis we are facing,” he told reporters doing a news conference shortly after the House vote.

The continuing resolution that is currently funding the government expires Friday, and the stopgap would buy more time on negotiations for a spending bill to finish out the fiscal year. In addition to providing another week of funding, the House-passed bill would fund the Department of Defense through the end of September. While it would cut discretionary spending by $12 billion, the Defense portion includes $6 billion in additional spending, bringing the total cuts to the federal budget to roughly $6 billion.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy backed up Cantor at the news conference, arguing that Democratic opposition could force a government shutdown. “Shame on them. That is irresponsible,” the California Republican said

Democrats have slammed the one-week bill for days, in part over a policy rider that would bar the District of Columbia from using federal and local funds for abortion services. They say the rider is a poison pill designed to attract Democratic opposition. President Barack Obama has also issued a veto threat against the bill.

Congress has included similar language in spending bills for years, but Democrats tweaked it in 2010 to limit only federal funding.

Republicans are accusing Democrats of being hypocritical on the issue. They point out that Obama signed an omnibus spending bill in 2009 that included the language and that he twice voted for bills with similar language while he was a Senator.

They also point out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democratic leaders who are objecting to the rider have repeatedly voted for spending measures in the past that included it.

“There is nothing in the bipartisan troop funding bill that the House passed today that has not already been agreed to by Democrats in Congress, or requested by the administration,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement Thursday. “It funds our troops at a time when our military is engaged in three overseas conflicts, it cuts Washington spending by an amount that Democrat leaders have already said is reasonable, and the policy prescriptions it contains have been previously agreed to by nearly every Democrat in the Senate and signed into law by the President.”

Meanwhile, despite the war of words, negotiations were continuing on a six-month spending bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Reid met with Obama on Thursday afternoon for their third White House meeting about the negotiations this week.

Afterward, Reid said he was confident that Democrats would be able to prevail on policy riders they find objectionable.

“We’ll get most of them,” he said. “We are working through these.”

Negotiators on the Hill are continuing to meet and both leaders are heading back to the White House at 7 p.m.

Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.