House GOP plows ahead

Greg Nash

The House on Monday approved its latest mini-spending bill, this time to fund the Food and Drug Administration. 

It's the eighth targeted spending bill approved by the House, which seems no closer to reaching a deal to end the government shutdown with the Senate and President Obama. 

Members passed the Food and Drug Safety Act, H.J.Res. 77, in a 235-162 vote, as Democrats fumed that the GOP was leaving the government to wither on the vine. 

The vote came on the seventh day of the partial government shutdown and after a Sunday vacation from work that did little to cool other either side.

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President Obama on Monday dared Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a clean funding bill to the House floor for a vote, as he insisted the votes were there to approve it. 

Boehner, for his part, slammed Obama for not talking to congressional Republicans and said the president was risking the nation's economy by refusing to negotiate on the debt ceiling. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also pointed fingers, charging Boehner with being "afraid" to vote.

Democrats have been trying to build pressure on Boehner, who on Sunday said the votes weren't there to pass a clean funding bill. 

Democrats have insisted that the House could reopen the government if it just accepted the Senate's bill, but House Republicans have not given up their version, which takes a bite out of ObamaCare.

Democrats have also pressed for Boehner to bring up a clean debt ceiling bill, a separate fight quickly merging with the shutdown battle. 

Boehner's comment on Sunday prompted several House Democrats to say the House would accept the Senate's bill, but that Boehner just doesn't want to call it up.

The FDA vote was essentially a repeat of last week's votes on mini-spending bills. Republicans argued that Congress should put aside the larger fights and find ways to agree, and suggested that funding the FDA is one way forward.

"The Food and Drug Administration touches every member of this House, either directly or indirectly, and we need the entire agency back at work," said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.). "We need to also limit any damage to the millions of jobs impacted by FDA's work in the food and bio-science industries.

"Now is the chance for my colleagues here in the House to join me in keeping this important program fully operational."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the bill would give the FDA an annual rate of $2.3 billion, the same as fiscal 2013, but only through Dec. 15. That would keep the FDA's important food and drug safety functions in place and also allow it to collect and spend user fees, which help the agency make approval or denial decision on new drugs and devices.

During debate, Democrats again rejected the GOP's plan to present portions of the government for approval one at a time.

"You cannot just fund one component of government and not have the rest of government," said Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.).

Other Democrats blasted the GOP for trying to present small funding bills while dozens of agencies remain partially shut down. Democrats have said the GOP has held the government hostage for the last week and stuck to that argument today.

"This bill is today's daily exercise in cynicism," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

"This is just insane. This is insane," Farr added near the end of the debate. "What's going on is, we've just become children in this fight. This is nuts."

But just like in past votes, some Democrats voted in favor of the GOP's spending bill — the FDA bill won the support of 20 Democrats. One Republican voted against it, Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.).

Some Republicans used the FDA debate to defend Boehner's position and accused Democrats of holding progress hostage by not negotiating.

"The Senate Majority Leader and the President cannot continue to say that they will not negotiate, that they will not negotiate, on ending this government shutdown," said Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.). "They must stop holding so many important issues hostage to their absolutist demands."