Divided House Passes Second Stopgap Budget

BY Quinn Bowman  March 15, 2011 at 3:53 PM EDT

The House of Representatives approved another temporary spending measure Tuesday that will cut spending and keep the government operating for another three weeks, provided it also passes in the Senate.

The measure would cut $6 billion in spending, mostly from earmarks and other unused funds that President Obama also wanted to eliminate, and extend federal funding until April 8. When combined with the first stopgap measure passed earlier in March, it brings total spending cuts this year to about $10 billion from 2010 levels. You can read a summary of the cuts here.

In the 271-158 vote, fifty-four Republicans voted against the measure, joined by 104 Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was anxious to pass the measure in the Senate and move on to a longer-term measure to fund the government until the end of the fiscal year, September 30. The latest stopgap measure will likely be the last before both sides have to agree on spending levels for the rest of the fiscal year, as many of the key players on both sides of the aisle have said they will oppose further short-term solutions to the spending issue.

Tuesday’s vote showed the waning patience of some conservative House members. Many of those conservatives and freshman members, influenced by the anti-spending Tea Party movement during the 2010 midterm election, voted against the bill. 54 Republicans voted against Tuesday’s temporary spending bill, known as a continuing resolution; only six voted against the previous extension in early March.

Conservatives like Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., argue that Republicans should fight for big spending cuts now, such as the $61 billion in cuts the House passed in February with H.R. 1. Senate Democrats and President Obama objected to the domestic spending cuts in H.R. 1 and it failed a vote in the Senate, as did a Democratic proposal to cut roughly $9 billion in spending.

“By giving liberals in the Senate another three weeks of negotiations, we will only delay a confrontation that must come. I say, ‘Let it come now. It’s time to take a stand,’” Pence said in a Tuesday statement. “H.R. 1 was a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life. House Republicans need to tell liberals in the Senate, ‘This far and no further.’”

Both parties in the House showed their displeasure with being forced to vote every few weeks to keep the government functioning, but generally blamed the other side for the predicament.

House Speaker John Boehner, like many of his Republican colleagues, put the blame on the Senate for not introducing its own plan.

“The House passed a bill that cuts $62 billion from spending. What has the Senate passed? They passed nothing. Why can’t the Senate show us what they’re capable of producing? I don’t know what that number is. When we get that number we’ll have a better opportunity to have real negotiations,” Boehner said at a news conference Tuesday.

Before Tuesday’s vote, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., made an impassioned plea on the House floor for both sides to meet in the middle between H.R. 1 and the $9 billion in cuts proposed by Democrats. But he also pointed out that the large class of freshman House Republicans, eager to cut spending, may not be easy for Boehner to control.

Hoyer reminded Republicans that H.R. 1 failed in the Senate, and that they should come up with a new number for cuts.

“We can wring our hands and say the Senate isn’t doing their jobs. We aren’t in the Senate. We are here. Let us come to agreement. What we don’t know is what you can pass. What you don’t know is what you can pass.”

Reid said Tuesday that the Senate would not “take an axe” to the budget but would make cuts that also allowed for the saving or creation of jobs, reiterating his stance that the H.R. 1 cuts were unacceptable.