By Walter Alarkon - 09/24/09 02:35 AM EDT
Democrats moved ahead Wednesday with a continuing resolution to keep government running past the end of the month, but Republicans are protesting how House leaders are going about it.
House Democratic leaders plan to attach the continuing resolution to the legislative branch spending bill. That package is likely to be voted on by the House on Friday.
GOP House members complained that the Democratic plan to package the two measures will force Republicans to either vote for a $4.7 billion legislative branch spending bill they don't like or for a government shutdown, which would result if the package doesn't pass. To protest the Democratic move, House Republicans called for repeated motions to adjourn Wednesday evening, keeping lawmakers on the House floor longer than they expected.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the top House GOP appropriator, charged Democrats with playing politics by seeking to push through the legislative branch bill first instead of more crucial appropriations measures, such as ones funding the Defense department.
"Funding the operations of the Capitol and members' offices is clearly not the most pressing concern facing the American people," Lewis said.
Republicans also complained that the move to attach the continuing resolution to a spending bill would deprive the minority of the ability to force a tough vote. During debate over a continuing resolution, the minority usually gets a chance to offer an amendment of their choosing. But the minority loses that ability when the resolution is attached to other legislation.
Democrats noted that Republicans used the same maneuver three years ago, attaching a continuing resolution to the Defense spending bill.
“We have to keep the government running,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), who is sponsoring the legislative branch spending bill. She said that the easiest way to do that with the end of the fiscal year approaching is to attach the continuing resolution to the spending bill that's furthest along.
Senate and House negotiators will meet Thursday to reconcile differences between their versions of the legislative branch bill. The resulting conference report -- with the continuing resolution attached -- is expected to get a Friday vote in the House and a Senate vote soon after, Democrats said.