House rejects Dem try to block July 4 break

The House late Tuesday rejected a Democratic attempt to prevent Congress from leaving for its July 4 break so it can continue working on 2013 spending bills.

The issue of next week's adjournment came up during debate on a rule governing floor debate for two spending bills. Within that rule is language saying members cannot block resolutions that provide for adjournment next week.

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The language is needed because under current law, the House cannot adjourn for more than three days in July unless all 12 annual spending bills are completed. The language overrides that law, a step that is needed because so far, only four spending bills are done.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said language in the rule allowing for adjournment is a sign that Republicans will fail to approve all 12 spending bills, and said Congress should stay in session next week. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) went so far as to say the entire rule is an "adjournment resolution," which drew a rebuke from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).

"I need to remind my colleagues across the aisle that we're not debating an adjournment resolution here today," Foxx said.

Despite Democratic arguments, the July-adjournment requirement has been in place for more than three decades, and has been routinely switched off by the House, regardless of which party was in power. A House aide noted that the House has gotten around the law in 36 of the last 38 years.

Democrats sought to use a procedural move to amend the rule to prevent adjournment, but the move requires a majority vote, and minority attempts to pull off this move always fail. In this case, the House voted against the Democratic attempt in a party-line vote.

Immediately after that vote, the House voted 229-166 in favor of adopting the rule, setting up debate and consideration of amendments to H.R. 5972, funding the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, late tonight.

That bill spends $51.6 billion in 2013, down $3.9 billion from current funding levels, a cut that drew expected opposition from Democrats during debate. The rule also covers H.R. 5973, which would spend $19.4 billion on the Department of Agriculture and other agencies, and cuts $365 million compared to current levels.

Rep. Foxx said the bills represent GOP efforts to cut spending from record high levels to mitigate the ongoing fiscal crisis.

"While my liberal colleagues would undoubtedly prefer to borrow and spend more, and continue to ignore the dire fiscal realities of our county, House Republicans remain committed to reining in wasteful spending, even if it involves making difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions in order to save our country from fiscal ruin," she said.

"The simple truth is we cannot afford to fund every program at the bloated levels that for many years kept political promises but in the end hurt the fiscal stability of our country."

— This story was updated at 7:04 p.m.