The House narrowly passed legislation on Friday that calls for a House-passed FY 2011 spending bill to become law should the Senate fail to approve a spending bill by April 6. It would also prevent members of Congress from being paid during a government shutdown.
The bill, H.R. 1255, was approved over bitter Democratic opposition in a 221-202 vote in which no Democrats supported it, and 15 Republicans opposed it.
Republicans voting "no" were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Michael Burgess (Texas), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Richard Hanna (NY), Walter Jones (NC), Dan Lungren (Calif.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.), Ron Paul (Texas), Ted Poe (Texas), Reid Ribble (Wis.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and James Sensenbrenner (Wis.). Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) was the only member of the House to vote "present."
Democratic leaders echoed Gohmert throughout the day, and argued that the prospect of deeming H.R. 1 as U.S. law is a serious violation of the founding document of the United States.
"What you see on the floor today is no example of Democracy in action," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. "It's silly. The Republican leadership is asking its members to make a silly vote."
"April Fools, America," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. "This is a joke, America. This is not real, America."
Other Democrats openly mocked Republicans and said they fail to understand the basic constitutional requirement that bills must pass the House and Senate before they become law. Two members suggested children's books as a way for Republicans to begin to learn about the Constitution — Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) offered How our Laws are Made, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) offered House Mouse, Senate Mouse.
"It's a much thinner book and it rhymes," Weiner said.
Several others encouraged Republicans to watch "I'm Just a Bill," the classic 1970s cartoon explaining how a bill becomes law.
Republicans repeatedly dismissed these arguments and said they agree that the bill would also have to be approved by the Senate before H.R. 1 could be implemented. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) said Republicans are not operating under the idea that House passage alone would make H.R. 1 the law of the land, and said for this reason the bill is consistent with the Constitution.
Today's House vote was largely symbolic precisely because it would require the Senate to approve the same bill and President Obama would have to sign it, neither of which is expected to happen. Still, Republicans insisted that the vote is important because it clarifies that the House has passed a bill, while the Senate has yet to make it clear that it can pass any counter-proposal that might form the starting point of a negotiation.
During the debate, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) took the Democratic poster depicting the "I'm Just a Bill" cartoon, flipped it around to reveal its blank side, and said, "Here's the work product of the Senate. How do you negotiate with that?"
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) reiterated this point, and said the prospect of a government shutdown "looms ever larger" because the Senate has refused to pass a bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) slammed the bill's passage on Friday and said House Republicans are "wasting time."
"Unfortunately, today my colleagues in the House seem to be listening to this small but loud minority," Reid said in a statement. "Instead of working to create jobs, they are wasting time by voting yet again on a reckless spending bill that would destroy 700,000 jobs."
Cantor said the Senate still has the option of accepting the $61 billion in cuts approved in H.R. 1 if it finds it cannot pass any other bill.
"Funding the government at the levels passed by House Republicans might not be what Senator Reid wants, but surely even he would agree that it's a better alternative than shutting down the government," he said.
- This article was updated at 3:53 p.m.