House Lawmakers Putting Finishing Touches on Spending Bill

BY David Chalian  February 18, 2011 at 8:20 AM EST

Marine One with President Obama on board

Marine One with President Obama on board takes off Thursday from the South Lawn of the White House. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The House will meet at 9 a.m. Friday for what’s expected to be the fourth and final day in what has turned into a marathon debate over a bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year.

The spending package put forward by Republican lawmakers would trim $61 billion from the budget over the next seven months.

Representatives had originally been planning to vote on the bill by 3 p.m. Thursday, but lawmakers blew past that target, working late for a third night in a row as they considered dozens of amendments that would make even deeper cuts.

The additional reductions approved Thursday included $42.6 million from the United States Institute of Peace, offered by Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and $20.5 million from the National Endowment for the Arts, introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich.

The amendments to be voted on Friday include a proposal put forward by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., which would “prohibit funds from being made available for any purpose” to Planned Parenthood.

Off the floor Thursday, the debate turned to whether the government was headed for a shutdown. Lawmakers must approve a new funding bill by March 4, which is when the current temporary stopgap runs out, or government operations will be brought to a halt.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday he was not interested in passing a funding bill that didn’t include cuts from current spending levels. “Our goal here is to cut spending. I’m not going to move any kind of short-term [continuing resolution] at current levels,” Speaker Boehner told reporters at his weekly press briefing. “When we say we’re going to cut spending — read my lips — we’re going to cut spending.”

That drew an immediate rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who accused Boehner of being more interested in issuing threats than negotiating a deal. “We are terribly disappointed that Speaker Boehner can’t control the votes in his caucus to prevent a shutdown of government,” Sen. Reid said. “Now he’s resorting to threats to do just that without any negotiations. That is not permissible. We will not stand for that. He’s wrong.”

The House funding bill, whenever it passes, faces long odds in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority. They’re backed up by President Obama, who has threatened to veto the measure, contending the cuts go too deep.

Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to be in recess next week, giving lawmakers some time off before returning to Washington to figure out a way to keep the government running. They better rest up while they have the chance, because more long nights lie ahead.

ON WISCONSIN

The Democrats who serve in the minority in the Wisconsin state Senate are still across the border in Illinois Friday morning. They’re refusing to show up to work in Madison, where a vote is waiting to take place on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, which would end collective bargaining rights for anything other than salary for most public employees.

The Washington Post fronts the story with President Obama’s decision to inject himself into the controversy by calling Gov. Walker’s actions an “assault” on public employees.

“Rather than shouting down those in office who speak honestly about the challenges we face, the president and his advisers should lead,” House Speaker Boehner said in a statement.

Friday will mark the fourth consecutive day protesters have stormed the state capitol.

Gov. Walker, a Republican, appears to have enough votes to get his plan passed as soon as at least one Democratic senator returns to the chamber.

With the federal stimulus funds for states drying up, the scene in Wisconsin is one playing out across several states including, most imminently, in Ohio and Tennessee.

Ensuring this will remain on the national agenda, in just over a week the nation’s governors will meet with President Obama at the White House as part of their annual gathering in Washington, D.C.

PALIN PLAYS COY

At a paid speaking appearance before 1,000 business leaders sponsored by the Long Island Association, former Republican Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave a wink and a nod to her continued consideration of a 2012 presidential bid.

“Nobody is more qualified to multitasking and doing all the things that you need to do as president than a woman, a mom,” she said, adding coyly, “Maybe someone who’s already run for something — a vice presidential candidate?”

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times and POLITCO’s Maggie Haberman provide the details.

JEB’S A FAN

The Mitch Daniels for President movement continues to pick up steam.

National Review editor Rich Lowry and Washington Post columnist George Will each wrote favorable pieces about the Indiana governor’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference last Friday.

Now former Florida governor Jeb Bush is pumping up Daniels’ 2012 prospects.

The Florida Times-Union’s Abel Harding reports that Bush told a gathering of Jacksonville business leaders that “Mitch is the only one who sees the stark perils and will offer real detailed proposals.”

Bush also said Gov. Daniels’ wouldn’t be hurt by his prose over poetry approach to communicating. “He would be the anti-Obama, at least socially,” Bush said. “He’s not good on a teleprompter, but if my theory is right that could work well for him.”

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.