Democrats Dig In on Spending Bill
As Republicans scrambled to draft a new government funding bill that could win a majority of votes on the floor, House Democrats promised to stand united against any offsets to pay for disaster aid and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned GOP leaders not to try to reduce overall spending in the continuing resolution.
The Democrats’ resolve comes one day after the House failed to pass a continuing resolution that would have kept the government funded through mid-November. Near-universal Democratic opposition coupled with “no” votes from 48 Republicans doomed the bill Wednesday night. All but six Democrats voted against the measure, and Members promised a similarly strong opposition vote if Republicans continue to press for offsets for disaster funding.
“What we are advocating for is a clean CR. Just take out the offset and we think that could pass,” Rep. Norm Dicks, ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, said after exiting a Democratic whip meeting today.
The Washington state Democrat said he spoke with Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) after Wednesday night’s vote.
Rep. Bill Pascrell said he would maintain his opposition to any CR that seeks to offset emergency spending even as his own New Jersey district is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
“I think we’re taking the gloves off,” the Democrat said. “And when we say we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it.”
While Democrats took issue with Republicans’ decision to cut roughly $1 billion from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program to pay for part of the $3.6 billion in emergency spending, Pascrell said any offset is a nonstarter among his colleagues.
“I told our guys; don’t be debating so much about this particular offset, as bad as it is, because that’s not the issue,” Pascrell said. “The issue is on storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, we don’t have offsets.”
Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, whose Connecticut district was also affected by Irene, said, “My attitude is quite frankly stop holding the people who’ve been traumatized already by storms hostage to this.”
Katie Grant, spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said, “Hopefully Republicans now recognize they need Democrats to pass this measure and will craft a bipartisan CR that keeps government running and provides the full assistance Americans need to recover from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.”
Reid warned House GOP leaders to keep to the spending levels struck under the hard-fought agreement this summer to boost the debt ceiling.
“I want to send this message to them.” Reid said on the Senate floor today. “They should not renege on the agreement that was legislated here a few short weeks ago.”
But House Republican leaders may be tempted to roll back spending under the agreement, which sets fiscal 2011 discretionary spending at $1.043 trillion — the level set in the August debt ceiling agreement. But the 48 Republicans who voted against the CR did so largely because they want to spend at the $1.019 trillion level set out in House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget resolution, which the House adopted in April.
House Republicans are expected to hold a Conference meeting today to discuss the details of a CR agreement that could win 218 votes on the floor and be sent to the Senate. The current CR expires on Sept. 30, and Members are scheduled to adjourn Friday for a weeklong recess. Even if Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is able to craft a new bill that could win a majority of votes, Reid plans to offer an amendment that would nearly double emergency funding in the measure. It’s unclear whether the Nevada Democrat actually has the votes to pass such a measure, but Senate Democrats maintain that the failed vote in the House strengthened their hand.
The gamesmanship between the two chambers has revived fears of another showdown over a government shutdown. Wednesday night, House GOP leaders tried to downplay the chances of a shutdown, however.