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House’s Spending Debate Continues as Possible Government Shutdown Nears

February 18, 2011 at 6:34 PM EDT
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Congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports on the fourth day of deliberations in the House of Representatives over spending cuts and a continuing resolution to fund the government.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Back here on the East Coast, the showdown over spending stretched into a fourth day in the U.S. House of Representatives.

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

MAN: Without objection, so ordered.

KWAME HOLMAN: A marathon House debate slogged on today on a trillion-dollar spending bill to fund the government through September. The package, introduced by House Republicans, would trim $61 billion over the next seven months. But that total has been rising.

The debate was carried out under a so-called open rule. That allowed members to propose more than 500 amendments to the spending bill, many aimed at making even deeper cuts. When the House came in this morning, only 80 amendments had been considered, leaving some members waiting for their turns.

First up was Montana Republican Denny Rehberg with a proposal to block funds for implementing health care reform.

REP. DENNY REHBERG (R-Mont.): We call it what it is. It is Obamacare. It is a travesty. It is big government. It is not controlling health care costs. And it needs to be repealed.

KWAME HOLMAN: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi guided health reform to House passage when Democrats were in the majority and she was speaker.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.), House minority leader: They said we didn’t read the bill. Well, we did. But, clearly, you did not. And I urge you to read the bill, because, if you did, you would see that the bill puts medical decisions in the hands of patients and doctors, not your favorite insurance companies.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Rehberg amendment ultimately passed.

WOMAN: This amendment is adopted.

KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans also voted to strip funding for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. And they blocked federal aid for Planned Parenthood, as abortion opponents wanted.

But the House rejected a call for far deeper spending cuts totaling $22 billion in Congress’ own operating budget and in most government departments.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio): This amendment builds on a good bill, and simply says let’s get to a full $100 billion in savings outside of national defense, in non-security savings.

REP. NORM DICKS (D-Wash.): This is a meat axe approach on top of a meat axe approach. It’s a double meat axe approach. And it is an amendment that we should defeat, and defeat soundly.

KWAME HOLMAN: And it was defeated soundly, with more than 90 Republicans joining most Democrats to vote no.

WOMAN: The amendment is not adopted.

KWAME HOLMAN: The House could finish work this weekend, but the bill has little hope of making it intact through the Democratic-controlled Senate. And White House officials have threatened a presidential veto, in any case.

The Obama administration upped the ante today, warning workers who administer Social Security could be furloughed if the Republicans’ cuts go through, all of that as the clock ticks toward March 4, when funding for the federal government is set to run out.