Boehner chastises conservatives: You voted to spend more money

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a tough message to conservatives who rejected his government funding bill on Wednesday: You voted to spend more money.

Four dozen House Republicans broke ranks and opposed a stopgap spending measure, killing the bill after Democrats pulled their support. GOP leaders are now scrambling to rewrite the measure, and Boehner hinted on Thursday that Republicans would not end up with more spending cuts as a result. 

“They could vote 'no,' but what they’re in essence doing is they are voting to spend more money, because that’s exactly what will happen,” Boehner told reporters when asked for his message to conservatives who deserted him. 

The vote gave leverage to Democrats who want more federal disaster funding and oppose cuts to an energy program in the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Speaker said the Republican Conference would meet later Thursday to decide their next step. Congress must pass a spending measure by Sept. 30 to keep the government running. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be on recess next week.

Boehner sought to allay any concerns about a government shutdown. 

“Listen, there’s no threat of a government shutdown. Let’s just get this out there,” he said at a Capitol press conference.

The spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, included $3.65 billion in federal disaster aid. All but six Democrats opposed the bill because Republicans partially offset the disaster funding with a $1.5 billion cut to a Department of Energy manufacturing loan program.

The Democratic opposition forced Republicans to pass the bill on their own, and many conservatives were unhappy because the overall spending level for fiscal 2012 was set at $1.043 trillion — consistent with the debt deal this summer but higher than the cap in the House GOP budget.

Fifteen Republicans who voted for the debt agreement on Aug. 1 voted no on Wednesday night in the 195-230 roll call, including Reps. John Campbell (Calif.), Lou Barletta (Pa.), Ed Royce (Calif.) and Jeff Miller (Fla.). Had all 15 voted yes, GOP leaders would have been within striking distance of passing the measure.

“This continuing resolution was designed to be a bipartisan bill. We had every reason to believe that our counterparts across the aisle were supportive,” Boehner said. “Once they began to see where some of our votes were, they decided to play politics and vote against disaster relief for millions of Americans who’ve been affected by this.”

The Speaker appeared to take the vote in stride, saying he knew what was likely to happen but believed that the House should “work its will.” 

“I have no fear of allowing the House to work its will. I have long believed in it, and I will continue to believe in it,” Boehner said. “Does it make my life a little more difficult? Yes, it does.” 

Asked about the difficulty of finding enough Democratic votes without alienating conservatives in own party, Boehner replied: “Welcome to my world.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats are demanding that Republicans scrap the offsetting cuts for the disaster aid, and they circulated a letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposing the cut to the energy program. Senate Democrats are also pushing the House to boost the overall level of funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

“We’re going to meet with our members later on today and present some options and decide on the way forward,” Boehner said. That meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

The Speaker said he hoped the House would not have to stay in session through the weekend and into next week to finish the bill.

Bob Cusack contributed to this article, which was updated at 2:28 p.m.