House approves another short-term funding bill as frustration grows

The House on Tuesday approved a sixth short-term spending resolution for the current fiscal year by a 271-158 vote, despite opposition from a group of conservative lawmakers who called for deeper cuts and social policy riders.

Senate consideration of the measure could come as early as Wednesday amid growing frustration over the partisan stalemate on a longer-term bill to fund the government through September.

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The frustration with the three-week spending bill was apparent on two fronts: 54 Republicans defected on the measure, far more than the six who voted against the last stopgap. That temporary measure, which expires Friday, passed 335-91.

Fewer Democrats also crossed party lines to support the new continuing resolution. This time, 85 Democrats voted with Republicans, compared to 104 in the earlier vote.

Republicans acknowledged that a longer-term funding bill is preferable, but blamed Senate Democrats and President Obama for failing to put forth an alternative budget that can pass the Senate. The GOP said the three-week spending resolution, which expires April 8, should give the Senate plenty of time to figure out what can pass there.

"I rise today … to support this rule that will bring to the floor a continuing resolution that will give the Senate three more weeks to get its house in order to do the business that the American people sent the Senate here to do, to join us in doing the good work that we have done, and to move a bill to the president's desk," said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.). 

Republicans also blamed Democrats for failing to approve a budget last year, and said that failure means they have no right to complain about GOP budget proposals. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) was particularly harsh in his criticism of Democrats on this point.

"They left the American people and this country with this pile of crap, they should not complain about how we try to clean this up," he said.

But Democrats rejected these arguments and said Republicans need to restart negotiations with the Senate and abandon the earlier House-passed bill, H.R. 1, as a starting point.

"Their ideological and rigid loyalty to H.R. 1 is what is holding up these negotiations," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) added that Republicans are effectively saying, "Take it or leave it."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who warned last week that this is the last continuing resolution he would support, stressed that temporary spending bills are not good governance.

"This is a lousy way to run a railroad," Hoyer said. "We are trying to run the largest enterprise in the world in two-week segments. This ought to be the last of this type."

But the lack of a Senate consensus was on the minds of many in the House, including Democrats. Hoyer was interrupted by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who asked: "Would the gentleman talk to his colleagues over in the other body and tell them to pass something we can begin to negotiate on?"

Laughing, Hoyer replied, "Four-hundred-thirty-five of us have tried to talk to the people in the other body."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the short-term measure gives Congress "some breathing room" to work on a longer-term measure. He said Obama is urging the Senate to pass the bill to prevent a shutdown.

"But the President has been clear: with the wide range of issues facing our nation, we cannot keep funding the government in two or three week increments," Carney said. "It is time for us to come together, find common ground and resolve this issue in a sensible way. There is no disagreement on whether to cut spending to put us on a path to live within our means, but we can’t sacrifice critical investments that will help us out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our global competitors to win the future. We have already met Republicans halfway, and we are optimistic that Congress can get this done."

This post was updated at 4:19 p.m.

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