GOP centrist reaches out to Dems to back alternative spending bill

A Republican centrist is hoping to convince Democrats to back his spending plan over the one offered by House Republican leaders.

The uphill effort shows that some GOP lawmakers are skeptical of their leaders’ proposed spending cuts. It might also be an indicator that there will be defections in the House Republican Conference when the final spending plan is voted on later this week.

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Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), who is spearheading the effort for centrist Republicans, has balked at the $61 billion reduction plan offered by House GOP leaders.

“While I wholeheartedly support the $100 billion reductions (when compared to President Obama’s 2011 budget request), I could argue that it’s not regionally fair and that winners and losers were picked among the programs,” LaTourette told The Hill on Tuesday.

He called the underlying bill unfair because it would arbitrarily cut programs without proper vetting from committees of jurisdiction.

The Buckeye State lawmaker said he “didn’t know” if he could support the spending proposal endorsed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants. 

LaTourette prefers an across-the-board cut, the percentage of which is in the process of being determined. Initially, LaTourette proposed a 17 percent across-the-board cut for non-security discretionary spending programs. But due to technical House rules, that number might have to be tweaked.

It was unclear at press time if the nine-term lawmaker’s proposal will call for defense cuts. 

In order for his proposal to get 218 votes, LaTourette would likely have to pick up some Democratic votes, as well as Republicans who feel the GOP leadership’s plan slashes programs that significantly affect their constituents. 

The Ohio appropriator said Tuesday afternoon that he had until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning to produce his substitute. The measure would be scheduled at the end of the amendment process because it would replace the entire underlying measure. 

LaTourette, who is often seen taking smoking breaks in between votes on the House floor, spent much of that time on Tuesday buttonholing House members.

LaTourette had a series of conversations with his colleagues, including fellow Ohio lawmaker Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D), as well as Reps. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

The Hill was shown a copy of a digitally altered picture of former President George Washington on the dollar bill, sporting a flat-top with the tentative caption, “Washington needs a haircut, not a lobotomy.” LaTourette intends to attach a version of that image to his “Dear Colleague” letter seeking support for his amendment. 

Asked about the caption, LaTourette said he was likely going to remove the term “lobotomy,” calling it “too harsh.” 

One of Boehner’s confidants, LaTourette said that his leadership is “not helping me and they’re not hurting me” in his quest to garner votes.

The centrist Ohioan says he’s attempting to work with Democrats but, until he has “something that [he] can physically show them, that’s a tough conversation to have.” 

LaTourette spent more than an hour briefing fellow members of the centrist Tuesday Group at its weekly lunch earlier in the day.

Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) explained the Tuesday Group wants to find a “more equitable approach” in making the $61 billion in cuts. 

Garden State freshman Rep. Jon Runyan (R) left the meeting with LaTourette unsure of whether he could support leadership’s bill. 

“Everybody has constituents that are affected by this. This group is trying to take the heat off a lot of programs that are being cut,” Runyan told The Hill, noting that nearly 160 programs would be cut under the leadership’s proposal. 

Fortenberry said with so many amendments hitting the floor this week, the outcome could be a bit unpredictable. 

“We have to reduce the budget, but how you get there is a political, philosophical matter,” Fortenberry said. 

He sidestepped questions as to whether he would support the underlying bill: “I’m going to reserve my judgment until the end.”