Some Republicans Plan to Break Ranks Over Additional Stopgap Funding

BY David Chalian  March 15, 2011 at 8:16 AM EST

A man walks by the U.S. Capitol, where lawmakers are debating a stopgap funding bill. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The most important vote tally to watch Tuesday will be the one that indicates how many Republicans in the House voted against the three-week continuing resolution brought to the floor by the GOP leadership.

When the House voted on the current stopgap funding bill two weeks ago, only six Republicans cast a “no” vote to mark their disapproval of short-term funding measures that did not address the entirety of the spending cuts passed by the House.

(Reps. Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Steve King, Walter Jones, Louie Gohmert and Justin Amash were those six “no” votes.)

They’re likely to have a lot more company Tuesday when the House votes on the three-week extension with $6 billion in addition cuts from the president’s requested FY 2011 budget. (The final vote is expected to take place between 3-4 p.m. ET.)


“With the federal government facing record deficits and a mammoth debt hanging over our economy and our future, we must do more than cut spending in bite-sized pieces,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in a statement announcing his intention to vote against the funding bill. Rep. Jordan heads the Republican Study Committee in the House, a group of more than 170 conservative members of the Republican conference.

“Right now we are trying to position ourselves so that we can ensure there is not a government shutdown, but to continue cutting spending and reach a result that I think that we can get a majority of Members to go along with,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., when asked about the dissension in the conservative ranks.

A majority of Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the current continuing resolution, which funds the government through Friday. Rep. Cantor might need even more Democratic support to avoid a government shutdown if a significant number of Republicans fail to support the measure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the New York Times that sailing may be no smoother in the Senate. (Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., already announced his plans to vote against the bill.)

“Different members have different goals,” Sen. McConnell said. “So this will be an interesting challenge as we go forward.”

CONFIDENCE DOWN

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll out Tuesday morning shows that the partisan inaction in Congress, combined with rising gas prices, a slow economic recovery and an unpopular war abroad, is creating the lowest level of confidence in government in the last 35 years.

From ABC’s polling guru Gary Langer:

“‘Only 26 percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’re optimistic about “our system of government and how well it works,’ down 7 points since October to the fewest in surveys dating to 1974. Almost as many, 23 percent, are pessimistic, the closest these measures ever have come. The rest, a record high, are ‘uncertain’ about the system.”

As for the budget situation mentioned above, here are some numbers that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, likely hopes his members have absorbed before coming to their GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning:

“Perceived non-cooperation on the budget deficit is one problem for the Republicans in Congress. Seventy-one percent say the GOP is not willing enough to compromise with Obama on the deficit; that even includes 42 percent of Republicans. Fifty-two percent overall also say Obama isn’t willing enough to compromise — still a majority, but a substantially smaller one. (Indeed, 30 percent call Obama “too willing” to make peace; half as many say that about the GOP.)

“It follows that on another measure, the public by a 14-point margin says it’s more apt to hold the Republicans than Obama responsible if the budget impasse forces a partial government shutdown. (Then again, three in 10 also say a partial shutdown would be a good thing.)”

As we noted, the war in Afghanistan is a drag on how many Americans view the current condition of the country. As General David Petraeus prepares to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee with an update on the mission in Afghanistan, these numbers will be providing the backdrop:

“[J]ust 31 percent now say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, a new low. Sixty-four percent call it not worth fighting, and 49 percent feel that way ‘strongly,’ both record highs in ABC/Post polls.

“Two-to-one opposition for the first time puts public criticism of the war in Afghanistan at the level seen for the war in Iraq.”

With the war’s unpopularity on the rise, it’s not surprising to see a senator — even one from the president’s party — who’s up for re-election this cycle to call for more specifics on a withdrawal timetable. The Huffington Post has the details on New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s plan to require President Obama to submit to Congress a specific withdrawal plan (pace, timing, etc…) by July 31.

READY TO RUN?

It’s not everyday that national political news (almost) gets made in a collegiate leadership studies class.

Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine told a class at the University of Richmond Monday that he is “increasingly likely to run” for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Jim Webb.

“No final decision will be made or announced until the governor has had a final round of consultations with folks about how he can best serve the President, the people and the causes he cares about,” DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said in a statement.

Twitter was abuzz Monday afternoon with rumors that Kaine actually told the class he was definitely getting into the race.

The University of Richmond’s student newspaper, The Collegian, reports Kaine’s comments were somewhat newsier than Woodhouse portrays in his statement. The college paper reports Kaine would not announce for “a week or so,” but that he would “give it a shot,” according to one of the students in the class.

Kaine has been grappling with the decision since Webb announced his retirement last month. His recruitment has even included a phone conversation with President Obama, who two years ago convinced the then-Virginia governor to lead the DNC.

Politico’s David Catanese reports, “One Democrat close to Kaine said the only real hold-ups are making sure the DNC is ready for a transition in leadership and formally attaining the assurances from national Democrats that Kaine will have all the necessary resources at his disposal.”

SENATE HOLD-UP

The great deliberative body might not be deliberating much in the coming months if a group of Republican senators have their say.

In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and nine of his GOP colleagues threatened to object consideration of any bill not focused on spending cuts, debt reduction and reining in the size of government.

“While there are certainly many issues that warrant the Senate’s consideration, we feel that the Senate must not debate and consider bills at this time that do not affirmatively cut spending, directly address structural budget reforms, reduce government’s role in the economy so businesses can create jobs, or directly address this current financial crisis,” the senators wrote.

The lawmakers contend the issue must be addressed before a looming vote to raise the federal debt limit. “Our objections would be withheld if the Senate agrees to dedicate significant floor time to debate this issue well in advance of the federal government reaching our statutorily mandated debt limit.”

A larger group of Republican senators, meanwhile, have committed to blocking the confirmation of a new commerce secretary or any other trade nominee until President Obama submits trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea for ratification.

“Leading Republicans said they had commitments from 44 Republican senators, more than enough to filibuster any nominee for the Cabinet post being vacated by Gary Locke,” reports Carl Hulse of the New York Times.

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