House Passes Spending Bill With Deep Cuts

BY Quinn Bowman  February 19, 2011 at 7:15 AM EST

House of Representatives

Updated 7:15 a.m. ET Saturday:

The House approved a spending plan early Saturday morning that would cut $60 billion in domestic programs, foreign funding and some military projects.

The 235-189 passage marked a success for fiscally conservative Republicans and sets up a budget battle with President Obama and Senate Democrats next month. No House Democrats voted in favor of the spending plan, and three Republicans voted with Democrats against it. (View the roll call vote results.)

The possibility of a federal government shutdown hangs over the process. If the two chambers can’t agree on federal funding levels by March 4 — when the current funding resolution expires — they will have to pass another short-term spending measure as a stopgap to keep the government running.

Original story from Friday:

In a flurry of floor activity, the House of Representatives moved to wrap up legislative business Friday on a bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. As we explained earlier this week on the Rundown, the House and Senate have until March 4 to reach an agreement or the federal government will be forced to close until one is reached.

The continuing resolution, or CR, that’s under consideration would cut as much as $61 billion from current funding levels, but amendments being considered for the bill could cut even more.

The debate over the CR was complicated by new Speaker John Boehner’s decision to allow all members of the House to offer amendments to the bill. The result has been three straight days of debate over hundreds of amendments — dealing with everything from net neutrality, funding for Planned Parenthood, farm subsidies and President Obama’s health reform law. An amendment offered by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., would have prevented the Department of Defense from sponsoring NASCAR cars. That amendment failed.

As a result of the big cuts to current funding and the near free-for-all created by the open amendment process, House members have engaged in a rigorous debate over almost any conceivable policy facing Congress.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., briefly interrupted debate on amendments Friday to ask members to consider the “prudence of being concise” when debating amendments.

“We still have 18 hours of debate and 103 amendments to go. While none of us want to restrict anyone’s ability to speak their peace and voice their opinion, certainly a lot has been said,” Cantor said on the floor.

After debating amendments Friday that would defund health care reform, stop subsidies to Brazilian farmers and get rid of a Marine armored vehicle, representatives tackled an amendment from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that would make a further $22 billion cut to the funding bill.

“Let’s do more, let’s do $22 billion more, lets under-promise and over-perform,” urged Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.

But even Republicans opposed the amendment, hinting that even a House dominated by conservatives may not have the stomach for even bigger cuts.

Iowa Republican Tom Latham called the Jordan cuts “not thoughtful.”

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., who argued that the Jordan amendment would hamper the House’s ability to protect members of Congress, and reminded the House about the recent shooting of Rep. Gabriel Giffords.

“This would not allow me to do things you’ve asked me to do in terms of securing your offices here or at home,” Lungren said, who is chair of the committee that operates the House.

Later in the day, that amendment also failed.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said that the spending cuts would bring inevitable complaints from citizens and interest groups.

“Anytime you vote against spending or vote to cut spending you’re going to hear about it from people,” King told the NewsHour. “If we aren’t willing to pay some of the price and tighten our belts then we can’t ask anyone else to do that.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said he was getting a lot of feedback from his constituents from potential cuts to Pell grants, Head Start and public broadcasting

“When people talk generically about spending cuts is one thing but when they look and say does this mean we’re going to lose police officers off the street, a longer wait list for the local Head Start or some of the programming I want my kid to watch isn’t going to be there anymore then it becomes very real,” Schiff said.

The prospect of hundreds of amendments, each one possibly threatening federal funding for any number of projects has prompted lobbying groups to fight to against the cuts.

Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO legislative director, said he has asked state and local union leaders to lobby their members of Congress against the CR.

“If we describe it as just cutting spending we are missing the point. Its actually eliminating things about the government that (the Republicans) don’t like,” Samuel said. “It is fine to have open debate. It has exposed real ideological agenda behind this majority.”

As the debate wears on, time is running out to approve new funding. With Congress on break next week, they have one week to come up with a compromise between a Senate and House versions of the CR, or agree on a temporary extension. Speaker Boehner said Thursday he would demand any temporary CR to include spending cuts.

Visit our politics page for more coverage. This post was revised at 8:45 a.m. ET. Additionally, an earlier version of this story said that Rep. Jim Jordan was a Democrat. He is a Republican.