Done deal on a $4 billion cut gives Republicans spending victory

Done deal on a $4 billion cut gives Republicans spending victory

The House approved a stopgap spending resolution Tuesday in a landslide 335-91 vote, with more than 100 Democrats joining all but six Republicans in voting to slash federal spending by $4 billion over the next two weeks.

Shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules MORE (D-Nev.) said the upper chamber would likely approve the measure, which would send it to President Obama for his signature.

With a final Senate vote expected Wednesday morning, House Republicans are poised to win the first significant budget cuts of their new majority. Several House GOP bills had previously been shelved by the Senate.

More Democrats voted for the measure than against it, despite opposition from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democratic leader and former Speaker.

The legislation, known as a continuing resolution, would avert a government shutdown on March 4, giving Congress and the White House an additional two weeks to negotiate spending levels for the final seven months of the fiscal year.

Lawmakers from both parties said they cast their votes reluctantly, bemoaning the need for a stopgap measure and girding for the more difficult task of crafting a longer-term funding bill.  

To win support from Senate Democrats and the Obama administration, House Republicans cobbled together the $4 billion in cuts by defunding widely reviled earmarks and adopting reductions that the administration had already endorsed. 

Republican leaders cast the legislation as a down payment on their promise to cut spending. The $4 billion in cuts over two weeks is proportional to the roughly $61 billion over seven months that the House GOP approved last month.

The bill “follows through on our commitment to get Washington to begin to live within its means and prevents a potential shutdown by focusing on cuts that have garnered broad bipartisan support, including terminations and reductions from the president’s budget request and elimination of earmark slush funds,” House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement MORE (R-Va.) said after the vote.

“I urge the Senate not to make any changes to this [continuing resolution] and pass it in its current form to keep the government functioning as we work on a permanent measure to cut spending.”

The House vote came after a last-minute bid by the White House to advance legislation that would keep the government running for a month while deepening the spending cuts. The president called House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? MORE (R-Ohio) around midday Tuesday to discuss the issue, about two hours after BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? MORE publicly called out the White House for not engaging on the spending bill.

White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that the president preferred a longer window with corresponding deeper cuts, although he also signaled the White House could accept $4 billion in reductions over two weeks. 

“We do believe that if $4 billion in cuts over two weeks is acceptable, that the $8 billion over four or five weeks is something that we could agree on, again, if it was a clean continuing resolution,” Carney said. “That would also allow the time.”

Obama had threatened to veto the $61 billion in cuts the House approved in February. 

Senate Democrats had pushed for a short-term funding measure to maintain current spending levels. Reid indicated, however, the Senate would likely accept the House-passed bill, even as he criticized repeated stopgap measures as “a terrible way to govern.”

“The sooner we get this short-term funding of the government done, the quicker we can move to a long-term [continuing resolution]. That is where we are headed,” he said.

Reid said Obama should get more involved in the spending negotiations so he could use “the bully pulpit.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) also called on the White House to help craft the seven-month spending bill that Senate Democrats are working on.

A majority of the Democratic Caucus, 104 members, voted for the measure and against Pelosi, who opposed it. The second-ranking Democrat, Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), voted with the Republicans, as did the caucus chairman, Rep. John Larson (Conn.).

Six Republicans opposed the bill: Reps. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' Billboard from ‘God’ tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Senate Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota MORE (Minn.), Steve King (Iowa), Ron Paul (Texas), Walter Jones (N.C.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertHouse conservatives introduce resolution calling for second special counsel White House-backed prison reform bill advances in House GOP Rep. Zeldin to lead call for second special counsel MORE (Texas) and Justin AmashJustin AmashLawmakers seek to limit US involvement in Yemen's civil war NC Republican pressed on Trump in primary showdown Harassment rules play into race for Speaker MORE (Mich.), a freshman.

Several Republicans said they voted for the bill because it maintained the party’s promised level of spending cuts, pro-rated to two weeks. Yet patience appeared to be running out, as lawmakers criticized the piecemeal approach to keeping the government open. “It’s not a great way to run a government. It’s absolutely silly,” Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertRepublican candidate favored in Arizona special House election Ryan leaves legacy of tax cuts and deficits Paul Ryan’s successor must embrace the House Freedom Caucus MORE (R-Ariz.) said after the vote.

“I’m starting to feel like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day,’ ” Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) said in a floor speech. “I’ll support this measure, but I’ve been pushed to my limit.”

Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingCoast Guard suspends search for missing Ohio plane Freedom Caucus member to bring up bill on impeaching IRS chief GOP seeks to make it 52 MORE (R-La.), a member of the Tea Party Caucus, said conservatives
 will be hard-pressed to move a second short-term resolution if the Senate fails to advance a longer-term spending bill by March 18, when the two-week measure would expire. 

“They understand that there is a logistical problem that there just wasn’t time enough to have hearings or debate in the Senate, but after this two weeks, they are going to want something real — I doubt they are going to be in any mood for something short-term,” Fleming told The Hill.

Attention will soon return to the broader spending cuts that Republicans included in the seven-month bill they passed 11 days ago. Democrats have denounced those cuts as draconian and circulated a report this week from the chief economist for Moody’s, Mark Zandi, a former adviser to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Sarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ MORE (R-Ariz.), saying the Republican bill could cost 700,000 jobs and slow the economic recovery. 

In response, Republicans have moved to discredit Zandi, and Boehner referred to him on Tuesday as “Nancy Pelosi’s favorite pet economist.”

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, appeared to side with the GOP on Tuesday, disputing Zandi’s analysis and saying the proposed budget cuts would reduce growth only “on the margins.”

Erik Wasson, Mike Lillis, Molly K. Hooper, Sam Youngman and Vicki Needham contributed reporting.