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GOP rift forms as House passes stopgap spending bill. What happens next?

Republican freshmen revolt, saying the three-week spending bill cuts too little – $6 billion – from the 2011 budget. House Democrats who backed the measure say the GOP rift gives them an edge.

By Staff writer / March 15, 2011

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va. (l.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif. (r.) meet reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday. The House passed a stopgap spending bill, Tuesday, allowing for the Democrat majority Senate to vote this later week.

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Washington

In a dramatic House vote, 54 Republicans broke ranks with their own leadership Tuesday to oppose a three-week stopgap measure to keep government funded beyond March 18, when the current continuing resolution expires.

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The spending bill, which passed 271 to 178, cuts $6 billion from fiscal year 2010 spending levels. It now heads to the Senate, where the Democratic majority leader promises action this week.

The rift in Republican ranks caps a week of high frustration in which neither the Senate nor the White House brought a plan to the table that makes a dent in a projected $1.65 trillion deficit for the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. Conservatives, including many in the 87-member GOP freshman class, say the time for a showdown with Democrats – and with their own leadership – over the need for significant budget cuts is now.

“We’re spending $45 billion a day, what’s $6 billion in cuts?” says freshman Rep. Allen West (R) of Florida, who voted to oppose the bill. “I voted for the last CR – that’s it for me.”

Bowing to conservative pressure, especially from the GOP freshmen, House Republicans in February passed a spending bill to fund government through the end of FY 2011 that cut $62 billion from 2010 spending levels. In response, last week, the Senate took back-to-back votes on the House bill and an alternative proposed by the Senate Appropriations panel that cut only $6 billion, mainly comprising programs that were already slated to be scrapped by President Obama. Both measures failed, forcing House Republicans to scramble for another short-term fix.

The latest House continuing resolution cuts or eliminates 25 programs, many already identified for elimination by the White House in its budget for FY 2012. In addition to $3.5 billion in program cuts, the House plan also zeros out $2.6 billion for member projects or earmarks. It cuts in three weeks what Senate Democrats proposed cutting over six months. The current two-week continuing resolution cut $4 billion from 2010 levels.

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