House Republicans move to the floor on Tuesday a stopgap measure to keep government funded for the current fiscal year and avoid a government shutdown, while continuing to press the Senate to act. It’s their second such measure since taking back the House in January.
This time, the toughest opposition is coming from within their own ranks. Riled that Senate Democrats have yet to pass their own fiscal 2011 funding measure, some high-profile conservatives are urging their GOP colleagues to vote no on the $6 billion extension, which would keep the lights on through April 8.
“Things don’t change in Washington, D.C. until they have to. It will not be possible to put our fiscal house in order without a fight,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana in a statement Tuesday. “By giving liberals in the Senate another three weeks of negotiations, we will only delay a confrontation that must come. I say, ‘Let it come now. It's time to take a stand.’ ”
Under pressure from conservatives, especially the 87-member freshman class, House GOP leaders have set a target of reducing spending for fiscal year 2011 to the pre-Obama levels of fiscal year 2008. Six-term Representative Pence is one of 93 conservatives to vote last month to drop spending to fiscal 2006 levels. With a projected $1.65 trillion deficit – and a national debt about to top $14.3 trillion – anything less would be irresponsible, they say.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R) of Ohio, the current chair of the 176-member Republican Study Committee, the conservative wing of the Republican caucus, has also pledged a no vote on Tuesday’s measure. “Americans sent us here to deal with big problems in bold ways,” he said in a statement Friday. “We’re borrowing billions of dollars a day, yet Senate Democrats have done little more than wring their hands for the last month.”
Some 28 percent of Americans want congressional Republicans to stick to their guns and cut spending, even if it means a government shutdown, according to a Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll conducted Feb. 28-March 6. On the other hand, 41 percent say a government shutdown should be averted at all costs.
Another 23 percent say Democrats should insist on few or no budget cuts and focus on job creation, even if it means a government shutdown. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
On Monday evening, the House Rules Committee voted to take the stopgap measure, or continuing resolution (CR), to the floor under a closed rule, which means that no amendments will be allowed. Typically, that limitation is directed at the other side of the aisle. But in this case, the rule is also directed at avoiding amendments from the Republican side that could pass or present embarrassing votes for the majority.
Tea party Reps. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota and Steve King (R) of Iowa want an amendment that would defund President Obama’s signature health-care law. This would include rescinding some $105 billion in funding already appropriated through 2019 to implement the law.
Now is a critical pressure point on the new law, they said in a joint letter to Republican colleagues last week. Unless Republicans eliminate not only annual funding for health-care reform, but also those funds already committed to implement the law, then it follows that the law will take effect on the GOP’s watch – contrary to campaign pledges.
“Today’s vote is critically important and I know each of my colleagues will weigh it carefully. I am convinced that a vote for the CR is a vote to not fight against ObamaCare,” said Representative Bachmann, who founded the House Tea Party Caucus.
“The time has come to take a stand. 62 percent of Americans favor the repeal of ObamaCare, and I am standing with those Americans in fighting to stop its implementation,” she said in a statement Tuesday announcing her opposition to the continuing resolution because of the health-care omission.
In response, GOP leaders say that according to House rules, it’s not possible to cut the health-care funding without going back to appropriators.
"We can't do those on appropriations unless the authorizers pave the way for us," said Rep. Harold Rogers (R) of Kentucky, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, at Monday’s Rules Committee hearing.
House Democrats say that the Republicans are in a cutting frenzy that would harm America’s economic recovery and cost jobs. Referring to $62 billion in proposed cuts that House Republicans passed last month, Rep. Jim McGovern (D) of Massachusetts said at the hearing Monday, “What you passed in HR1 is so extreme that some on your side are uncomfortable with it.”
Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada on Tuesday chided Republicans for HR1, calling it an “extreme budget proposal” that would cut jobs. “Some Tea Party extremists seem to think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word, and have said that they would rather shut down the government than work with Democrats to find a common-sense, bipartisan solution,” he said in a statement.