House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has convinced 182 Democrats to oppose including any controversial policy riders in the 2012 appropriations bills.
The move is important because it could make it more difficult for Republicans to move 2012 spending measures.
A number of Republicans oppose any appropriations bills based on the spending levels set in the August debt ceiling deal, which GOP leaders are using as the basis for this year's appropriations bills.
Hoyer's move is intended as a sign of political strength that will either force Republicans to unite or to drop some of the policy riders, which include measures to block environmental regulations and stop implementation of the new healthcare law.
“The American people expect us to work together to create jobs, grow the economy, and reduce the deficit – not take the government to the brink of a shutdown by including partisan, ideological policy riders in appropriations bills,” Hoyer wrote in a letter he and the other Democrats signed to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Hoyer did fail to win the signatures of 12 Democrats, which could give Republicans room to lose a few of their members.
Hoyer, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, are also not included among the 182 Democrats objecting to policy riders. Hoyer signed the letter but Pelosi did not only for reasons of tradition and Dicks did not only because the letter was also addressed to him.
Even if a bill with riders clears the House, it would face an uncertain path in a Senate held by Democrats. President Obama could also choose to veto an appropriations measure over a rider.
By one calculation, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would need eight Democrats to join him to pass a rider-laden appropriations bill.
Fifty-two Republicans in a Sept. 15 letter said they opposed basing appropriations bills on the debt deal. If all of those Republicans opposed a spending bill, GOP leaders would have only 190 votes.
But GOP leaders have been able woo back some of those members in previous votes.
When the House passed a temporary spending bill in September, 27 Republicans who signed the Sept. 15 letter backed the spending bill, which was based on the debt deal.
Among those not signing the letter were seven Democrats who could back a rider defunding Obama’s healthcare overhaul. Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Daniel Lipinski (Ill.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.), who all voted against the Obama healthcare law, did not sign. The House GOP draft labor-health bill would defund that law.
Reps. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Mike Michaud (Maine), Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), who is recovering from an assassination attempt, also did not sign.
The first appropriations “minibus” containing funding for agriculture, transportation, housing, commerce and justice is set to pass the Senate on Tuesday and head to a conference where other, more controversial, bills could be added.
A second minibus with financial services, energy and foreign aid funding is slated to come to the Senate floor later this week. The federal government is operating under a temporary spending bill set to expire Nov. 18.
The letter, which sources told The Hill last week was circulating, warns that “as appropriators continue working to meet funding thresholds in the Budget Control Act, it is important that Republicans not risk a government shutdown by playing politics with appropriations bills.”
— Julian Pecquet contributed.
This story was updated at 11:41 p.m.