House Sends White House a Short-term Spending Bill

By: Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
By: Andrew Taylor, Associated Press

Washington, D.C (AP) -- The House passed a spending bill Tuesday to fund the government for six weeks, delaying a series of battles over spending and policy that include everything from labor law and environmental regulations to abortion and the Pentagon budget.

The 352-66 vote sent the measure to President Barack Obama in time to avert a government shutdown at midnight. That ended a skirmish over disaster aid that seemed to signal far more trouble ahead as Obama and a bitterly divided Congress begin working on ironing out hundreds of differences, big and small, on a $1 trillion-plus pile of 12 unfinished spending bills.

Fifty-three Republicans defected on the measure, which was calibrated to spend money at rates equal to an August budget deal between Congress and Obama that permits too much spending for many tea party conservatives.

For weeks officials fought over disaster aid after the House insisted that $1 billion in emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Irene and other natural disasters should have been offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. House and Senate Democrats strongly opposed the idea, particularly over House GOP cuts to a loan guarantee program that helps automakers retool factories to meet new fuel economy standards.

But a face-saving compromise last week - the Senate dropped both the $1 billion in aid and the cuts to clean energy programs - paved the way for Tuesday's vote. Debate lasted just minutes.

"We need to keep the doors of the government open to the American people who rely on its programs and services," said the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "Furthermore, our economy cannot handle the instability that comes with the threat of a government shutdown."

A far more difficult task loomed: passing the 12 annual spending bills that lay out the day-to-day operating budgets for Cabinet agencies and departments.

On one hand, the task was made easier by the fact that the GOP-controlled House, the Democratic-run Senate and the president were in agreement on an overall $1 trillion-plus budget for the day-to-day operations of government agencies. The August budget deal restored $24 billion in cuts sought by Republicans in their April budget, but the overall budget "cap" remained slightly below levels for the 2011 budget year that ended Sept. 30.

Still, there remained plenty of disagreement over which programs should be increased and which should be cut the deepest.

Republicans were pressing big cuts to foreign aid and to preserve some budget gains for the Pentagon; Democrats and Obama wanted more money for domestic programs like job training, Pell Grants and heating subsidies for the poor.

To make the bills appealing to conservatives despite higher-than-hoped spending levels, House Republicans were using the bills to attack Obama's policies on health care and financial services, environmental regulations and labor rules. GOP lawmakers also were fighting on behalf of conservative social policies such as eliminating federal aid for family planning and barring health care plans for federal workers from covering abortions.

The short-term measure set a Nov. 18 deadline to wrap up the unfinished spending bills. But it was by no means a sure thing that a bitterly divided Congress and the White House would be able to do so.

The loss of 53 Republicans on Tuesday's vote illustrated the difficult hand that GOP leaders must play in the negotiations.

That's because to pass the final legislation will require Republicans to seek support from Democrats to counter defections from about tea party Republicans.

After passing half of the 12 appropriations bills, House GOP leaders pulled the plug on floor debates on the rest, apparently because of these party divisions.

The Senate has passed a single bill, though Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised additional action this month on up to three of the measures.

The likely result: a reprise of this spring's omnibus spending bill. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was forced to drop numerous policy provisions in late-stage talks with Obama and make concessions to Democrats on spending priorities.

GOP leaders may not be in a rush to seal such an agreement, especially with Congress scheduled to work in December anyway on legislation approved by a special deficit committee that's likely to focus on benefit programs.

The final agreement on disaster relief involved giving the government's main disaster aid account $2.7 billion, which the administration said would be enough to take care of disaster needs over the next few weeks. Several billion dollars more was on the way as part of a final agreement.

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  • by Death Star on Oct 5, 2011 at 09:45 AM
    Shut it all down - the wars, the economy and the government. None of it works anyway.
  • by Renae Location: Florida on Oct 5, 2011 at 08:50 AM
    The problem may be with both parties but the American people are paying the price. These payday loan type bills are not benefitting the country. It is time for the taxpayers to let both houses of Congress know how we feel. They are not interested in anything that will cause them to spend their personal money, but they are requiring others to spend money for services and goods that should be available for those not able to get them. Let's stop blaming he President and look at the whole set in DC. They are pulling our strings and making us fight among ourselves. Let's stand up and tell them, WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THEIR GAMES. As stated by the law, silence is a sign of consent.
  • by What??? on Oct 4, 2011 at 11:35 PM
    Yesterday, the Senate minority leader asked for a vote on Pres. Obama's jobs bill and Sen. Reid would not bring it up in the Senate. Why does Pres. Obama not have the support of his own party with his jobs bill??? Why is Pres. Obama campaigning that the Republicans are the party who is delaying a vote???
    • reply
      by Jeff on Oct 5, 2011 at 05:51 AM in reply to What???
      Because his own party doesn't agree with him and are seperating themselves from him.
    • reply
      by me on Oct 5, 2011 at 09:07 AM in reply to What???
      and.....his "base" will believe him.
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