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House Approves Minibus Over Conservative Objections

Updated: 6:20 p.m.

The House passed a stopgap spending measure this afternoon over the objections of 101 mostly conservative Members who charged it was too costly.

The minibus, which now heads to the Senate for consideration tonight, was criticized by conservatives who disliked language on housing loans they considered harmful. A handful of conservative groups, including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, opposed the measure as well, listing it as a key vote on their lawmaker scorecards.

Still, the House’s action and Senate’s likely approval mark a victory for the two chambers, which have been at odds on spending matters all year.

“It has become all too rare a thing in this Congress to come to an agreement such as this, and I’m proud to say that this conference report was approved by all but one of the 38 House and Senate conferees from both parties,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said on the floor. “While there are no doubt items where Members might disagree, there are many achievements in this bill of which we can be proud.”

Despite Rogers’ glowing floor statement, Republican appropriators who negotiated the bill with Senate conferees were fuming about the floor vote in which more Democrats than Republicans supported the measure — the first time that’s happened on a spending measure intended to become law this year. They were particularly angry that leadership including GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.), Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) and other senior members of the conference voted no.

“Is this governing when you have to rely on Democrats and part of the votes you’re missing are your own leadership?” asked Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. “If it’s a free vote for leadership, it’s a free for everybody.”

But a House GOP aide said the floor vote, including the position of various leaders, was “not a surprise” and that scores of conservatives were particularly mad about emergency spending levels and the housing provision in the conference report.

Rep. Jeff Flake, an appropriator who voted against the measure, agreed.

“When we’re coming in at levels like this, that’s a tough thing to swallow. I think that the leaders that voted against it were justified to do so,” the Arizona Republican said.

A continuing resolution that funds the government through Dec. 16 is included in the overall package, which also contains three appropriations bills: the Commerce, Justice and science appropriations bill; the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill; and the Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration appropriations bill.

The National Association of Home Builders also added the bill to its key votes because it includes language that increases the mortgage amount the Federal Housing Administration can insure to $729,750, a move it thinks helps the struggling housing market.

But that provision has conservatives up in arms. The Club for Growth issued a statement saying it “opposes any bill that increases the FHA loan limits and urges Congress to do the same.”

The minibus also includes a host of gun provisions, including three that were in previous spending bills, that would be made permanent.

The current continuing resolution expires midnight Friday, and government funds will cease to flow and the federal government will shut down if Congress doesn’t act before then.

Efforts in the Senate to pass a second minibus have stalled. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had hoped to attach the State and foreign operations appropriations bill and the financial services and general government appropriations bill to the Energy and water development appropriations bill, which the Senate had been considering.

But the Nevada Democrat gave up on that earlier this week when an agreement could not be reached to combine the three bills. He then focused on just the Energy and water bill but has put that aside while an agreement on amendments is worked out. The Senate has moved on to the Defense authorization bill.

If the Senate does not return to the Energy spending measure, it will likely end up in a catch-all omnibus package, which Congress has until Dec. 16 to pass under the proposed continuing resolution.

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