House passes bills to fund DC, parks and medical research

The House approved three targeted spending resolutions to the Senate Wednesday, daring Senate Democrats to vote against measures to immediately fund the District of Columbia, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Park Service.

The bills are part of the House Republican plan to pass spending bills in areas where there is bipartisan agreement in order to spare some pieces of the government from the shutdown.

But while Democrats support these priorities, they mostly opposed attempts to pass them in the House. Democrats said Republicans were using the bills as part of a political strategy to mitigate the effects of the shutdown when they should instead pass a Senate spending resolution that funds the entire government.

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"The majority is making itself clear," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). "Any time they see a bad headline, they're going to bring a bill to the floor to make it go away."

But Republicans pointed to a few other headlines that were playing badly for Democrats Wednesday.

Before passing a bill to keep national parks and monuments open, Republicans blasted the Obama administration for erecting barricades around the World War II Memorial this week, which kept out visiting veterans groups.

"Barricades were put up around the World War II Memorial," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). "Again, a memorial accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

"We should not be using our national parks … as hostages for the Democratic 'my way or the highway' shutdown."

The House easily passed the parks resolution, H.J.Res. 70, in a 252-173 vote — the measure was supported by 23 Democrats and opposed by one Republican.

Along the way to passing the resolution funding the NIH, H.J.Res. 73, Republicans criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for dismissing the idea of funding programs that help sick children. When asked if he would support NIH funding to help even one child with cancer, Reid said, "Why would we want to do that?"

"We should pass this resolution notwithstanding what the majority leader in the other body says," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). "It's very straightforward. I think in any normal situation, there would be bipartisan support for this."

Most Democrats opposed this bill as well and said it amounts to playing needy groups off each other.

"Every day, the Republican leadership tries to find a new way to pit one desperate group of Americans against another," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). "Today Republicans are pitting kids with cancer against kids who are hungry because of the shutdown."

But the House passed the NIH bill nonetheless, in a 254-171 vote that saw 25 Democrats join with all Republicans except one.

Earlier in the day, Republicans called up a bill funding the District of Columbia. Based on the House vote, this bill may have some chance of being taken up in the Senate — the House passed it in a voice vote, and no Democrat asked for a recorded vote.

The lack of a Democratic request for a recorded vote allowed Democrats to dodge a vote that split them Tuesday. Then, 34 Democrats supported the resolution to fund the D.C. government.

Just before the votes, Democrats tried to use a motion to recommit to take up the Senate's spending resolution. But as expected, Republicans argued that this motion was not germane to the more narrow spending bills before the House today.

When Democrats sought to appeal that ruling from the presiding officer, Republicans moved to table that appeal and succeed in a 230-194 vote.

Frustrated Democrats could only vent at Republicans who showed no sign of caving in on their demand to undermine ObamaCare on the second day of the government shutdown.

"I've never seen such small-minded, miserable behavior in this House of Representatives, and such a disregard of our responsibilities to the people," Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) complained. "The American people could get better government out of monkey island in the local zoo than we're getting … today."

During the debate, Miller accused the GOP of pursuing a "jihad" against healthcare. That prompted Simpson to say he was offended by these comments, although Simpson said he would not ask for the words to be stricken from the record.