House votes to create new ‘working group’ for fiscal negotiations

The House voted Tuesday night to ship the intractable debate over spending and the debt ceiling to a new working group, which Democrats quickly derided as a possible repeat of the "super committee" that led to the sequester.

The Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth Working Group Act, H.R. 3273, was passed in a 224-197 vote that only drew the support of two Democrats. Five Republicans voted against the plan.

Democrats voting "yes" were Reps. John Barrow (Ga.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). Republicans voting "no" were Reps. Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Tom Massie (Ky.), Ted Poe (Texas), and Tom Rooney (Fla.).

The vote was held just hours after President Obama dismissed the idea at a White House press conference. Obama said the bigger issue is whether Republicans are willing to offer a real give-and-take on fiscal issues, and said Republicans still seemed unwilling to re-open the government.

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That speech was followed by a White House threat to veto the bill if it were presented for Obama's signature into law.

Republicans said the bill was an attempt to create a framework for talks between the two parties about how to re-open the government and deal with the looming issue of the debt ceiling.

"House Republicans are going to offer to sit down at the negotiation table with Senate Democrats in an effort to reach the meaningful solutions our constituents expect from us," said House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).

Republicans have complained for days now that Democrats have refused all invitations to negotiate an end to the shutdown. During debate earlier in the day, a frustrated Sessions said Obama is unique among presidents for not wanting to engage with his political opponents on these issues.

"This president is simply different than every other president we've ever had," he said.

But Democrats repeated their argument that Republicans have poisoned the atmosphere for negotiations by insisting on a 2014 spending bill that undermines ObamaCare, something Democrats rejected. They also dismissed the idea of a new committee as a recycled version of other ideas with a storied history of failure in Washington.

"We had the Domenici-Rivlin Commission, we had the Cantor-Biden talks, we have the Obama-Boehner debt ceiling negotiations, the Gang of Six talks, the Supercommittee, and then the Obama-Boehner fiscal cliff talks," said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.). "And not one of them worked, and this mess isn't going to work either."

Most of the debate on the proposal repeated the various arguments that both sides have made about the government shutdown for the last eight days.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), for example, said the morale of the entire country has been brought down by the shutdown, and called on Republicans to accept the Senate's spending plan, which doesn't touch ObamaCare.

Republicans argued that it's time for Congress to take a significant step toward controlling federal spending and reducing the reach of Washington, including by mitigating the effect of ObamaCare and reducing other federal regulations. Sessions said the American people are "sick and worried" about what government over-reach means for their future.

Under the legislation, a committee of 20 lawmakers would have to be appointed to the fiscal working group one day after the bill becomes law. Six members from the majority party and four from the minority party in both the House and Senate would be assigned.

It would then require the group to meet until it has recommendations.

In a separate vote, the House approved a resolution aimed at making sure essential federal workers who have remained on the job are paid on time. This resolution, H.J.Res. 89, was unobjectionable, and it passed 420-0.

Under the rule, the House will send over both bills in a single piece of legislation.

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