Bill pulled amid charges of floor 'scuffle'

House Republican leaders on Saturday pulled one of their "mini" spending resolutions from the floor after dozens of Democrats tried to use the debate to call up the Senate's continuing resolution to re-open the government.

Members were debating the American Indian and Alaska Native, Health, Education, and Safety Act, H.J.Res. 80, the 15th "mini" appropriations bill GOP leaders have called up.

But in the midst of the debate, several Democrats lined up to make unanimous consent requests to call up the Senate's broad continuing resolution. Republicans repeated that it is not in order to call up the Senate resolution because Republican leaders have not consented to do so.

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Presiding officer Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Democrat after Democrat that their requests were not in order, but then suddenly, he announced the House would move on to votes related to the farm bill.

That decision prompted some scuffling on the floor — Republicans say Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) put his hands on a staffer for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Democrats said that did not happen, but said Democrats were mad that an unelected staffer said he was pulling the bill.

A House aide to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Republicans pulled the plug on a vote on the Indian affairs bill to put a stop to the Democrats' delay tactics.

"Democrats were using dilatory tactics to delay the bill on the floor," the aide said. "Under direction from Majority Leader Cantor, our floor director instructed the Minority staff that we would be moving off the bill and onto a vote on the Motion to Instruct."

The aide said the resolution would come up for a vote Monday when the House returns. "The Democrats can continue their show on Monday when the vote comes back up," he said.

Later in the debate, House Budget Committee ranking member noted that under normal House rules, it would be in order for any member of the House to make a request to call up legislation that is stuck between the House and the Senate. However, the House on October 1 passed a resolution that only makes it in order for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to call up the Senate's continuing resolution.

"I think Democracy has been suspended," Van Hollen said.

The Indian bill was the only bill called up for a vote today. After the kerfuffle, Democrats began a one-hour "special order" series of remarks on the floor complaining about their inability to call up the Senate bill.

The Democratic protest came shortly after House Republicans said President Obama had rejected the latest GOP to extend the debt ceiling and re-open the government until late November, and use that time to negotiate a broader fiscal deal. 

The Indian affairs spending resolution would fund the Bureau of Indian Affairs and education and health services for Native Americans. Republicans said funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs is needed to ensure vital support to Native Americans across the country.

"This bill focuses on education, law enforcement, health care, and many other vital services to American Indians and Alaska natives," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) warned Democrats that voting against the resolution would be a vote "against the first Americans."

Democrats continue to oppose the GOP's "piecemeal" funding strategy, but also had problems with the specific resolution on Indian affairs. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said the bill is incomplete, as it does not fund all federal programs related to Native Americans.

"Here are just some of the Native American programs and offices that are not funded by this resolution," Moran said. "Native American education programs that are funded by the Department of Education.

"Native American law enforcement programs funded by the Department of Justice, including the programs to carry out the Violence Against Women Act. That's an area where we have achieved, finally, bipartisan agreement. This doesn't allow us the funds to carry out that program."