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WASHINGTON – After an all-night session, House Republicans early Saturday morning passed legislation that would slash $60 billion in government spending between now and the end of September, setting up a showdown with President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto the measure.
The cuts, which were passed without a single Democratic vote, are aimed primarily at domestic social spending but also have policy goals — going after the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Funding for the government runs out on March 4. Obama said on Tuesday he would veto the House version, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to remove many of the bill’s funding cuts. So Saturday’s passage makes a government shutdown more likely, not less.
The bill is a stop-gap measure – known as a continuing resolution – that would establish spending levels for the rest of the current fiscal year. An even shorter-term solution to buy the chambers more time for a compromise may be off of the table, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Thursday.
“We are hopeful that the Senate will take up the House passed bill that comes out of here today, tonight, tomorrow morning, whenever it is, and we hope that they will move it,” he said. “But I am not going to move any kind of short term CR at current levels. When we say we’re going to cut spending, read my lips: We are going to cut spending.”
But he later backed off the threat, telling reporters on Friday he would allow for another stop-gap funding bill to prevent government shutdown. Details of that plan will be released “soon enough,” he said.
The bill passed 235 to 189, with three Republicans joining all the chamber’s Democrats in voting no.
An aide to Nancy Pelosi told Democratic chiefs of staff on Friday that he thinks a government shutdown is likely.
The final funding bill approved by the House included a number of amendments after a time-intensive process that kept lawmakers debating and voting late on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights as well. Some amendments were approved with bipartisan support, such as an effort to kill funding to a Pentagon program to build duplicate fighter jet engines. That amendment, which was supported by the Pentagon, passed on Wednesday in a 233-198 vote.
Other amendments would take additional funding from agencies that were already weakened by the original funding bill. The Environmental Protection Agency, already facing $3 billion in cuts from the main bill, would lose an additional $8.4 million for its greenhouse gas registry thanks to a measure introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kans.), which was added in a 239-185 vote.
The House also targeted the EPA’s regulations on cement plants, approving in a 250-177 vote an amendment prohibiting the agency from using funds to implement or enforce the rule.
White House “czars,” or advisers would also be banned after an amendment by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), which was approved on Thursday in a 249-149 vote. The amendment prohibited funds to be used to so-called czars on health care, climate change, global warming, green jobs, automobiles, Guantanamo Bay Closure, Pay and Fairness Doctrine.
“To the czars I say, Nyet,” Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said in support of the amendment. “I will leave it to the gentleman to work out his Lenin fantasy,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) quipped in response.
On Friday, the House approved two amendments to de-fund the president’s health care law, another step toward blocking the legislation they have already voted to repeal. The amendments, both introduced by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, would block funding to implement health care reform and prohibit agencies from hiring staff to implement the law, effectively rendering its protections against insurance companies unenforceable.
Another longtime Republican target, Planned Parenthood, would be banned from receiving funding under an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), which Democrats called an “all-out war on women.” The measure would prevent the organization from receiving any federal funding because it performs abortions — even though using government money for abortions is already illegal — undermining programs for reproductive health and pregnancy prevention.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) spoke out against the attack on Planned Parenthood after delivering an emotional account on the House floor of an emergency abortion she underwent for medical reasons.
“A continuing resolution is a mechanism to allow the government to continue to operate,” Speier told HuffPost. “It should not be a vehicle for political rhetoric and high drama that was exhibited last night on an issue that was unrelated to the federal budget. It didn’t create one job, it didn’t reduce the deficit, so what was the point?”
Efforts by Democrats to restore funding to agencies were mostly voted down. Rep. Rush Holt’s (D-N.J.) amendment to restore some funding to the CFPB was struck down on a party-line vote Thursday 163-265, leaving the bureau with only half of its current funding in the final bill. Frank attempted to restore $131 million in funds to the Securities and Exchange Commission, but that amendment also failed in a 160-270 vote.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about whether they like the freedom to be cheated on credit cards, to be cheated on mortgages, to be cheated on overdraft fees, and I found that was not really a freedom they valued,” Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said on the House floor on Thursday. “They don’t really value that any more than Americans 100 years ago valued the right to buy rancid beef.”
An amendment to end a tax loophole for major oil companies, introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), failed in a 251-174 vote on Friday. Democrats aimed to end subsidies to Big Oil as a revenue-booster to protect social programs, but found little support from Republicans.
“Republicans once again sided with BP, Exxon and the oil companies, not with the American taxpayer and the poorest Americans most in need of help,” Markey said in a statement. “This legislation focuses on just the kind of special interest loophole that should be closed before we open attacks on programs for the poorest Americans.”
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