Holmes Norton argued that without this exception, Congress would run the risk to shutting down the D.C. government, and that this is unfair because most of that operating money comes from D.C. residents and is redistributed by Congress. However, Republicans indicated they do not fear a government shutdown, and that the entire point of the two-week spending bill is to avoid that possibility.
"We have no intention of shutting government down," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). "Our intention is to keep it going."
A second amendment offered by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) would have restored $557 million in school improvement and teacher quality grants by using unspent Census money, but this too was rejected in a party-line vote.
Some objections to the GOP proposal were expected, as it cuts hundreds of millions of dollars from education, energy, water, and health programs. But while Democrats complained about some of the proposed cuts, there was little indication that they would vote en bloc against the measure tomorrow.
For example, Ranking Rules Committee Member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), who has strictly opposed other Republican spending measures, notably complained about H.R. 1, the GOP proposal for all of FY 2011. But on the two-week spending bill, she said, "I think the cuts that you've recommended are not bad," since they track many of the cuts the Obama administration has proposed.
Appropriations Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) also reserved his criticism for H.R. 1, and said that longer-term bill goes too far in cutting back spending.
"Campaign pledges are one thing, but you gotta listen to the professionals," Dicks said. "Mark Zandi [of Moody's Analytics], Goldman Sachs, [Fed Chairman Ben] Bernanke -- all are worried about the impact of these severe cuts."
To that, Rogers replied, "No nation has ever borrowed its way to prosperity."
Despite the lingering party tensions, Rogers and Dicks both agreed that the open process for considering dozens of amendments to H.R. 1 earlier in February was a positive step. Rogers said he thinks "the House came off looking good" after finishing early at 4 a.m. on the morning of February 19, and Dicks agreed that the process was a "very positive thing."