House passes first of 12 appropriations bills for 2011 on voice vote

Republicans joined Democrats to pass on Wednesday the $77.3 billion appropriations bill for military construction and veterans affairs, the first of the 12 regular spending measures for 2011.

The bill passed on a 411-6 vote.

The measure provides funding for military construction projects such as new barracks and base repairs and healthcare for veterans. The bill calls for $700 million less on those programs than the 2010 spending measure, but that's partly due to the end of a five-year Base Realignment and Closure process. The spending for 2011 is equal to the request made by the Obama administration.

The House is far behind its pace last year in considering the dozen annual appropriations measures. Last year, the House had passed all 12 spending bills before the August recess. Even then, most of those measures weren't sent to President Obama until after the October start of the fiscal year, due largely to a legislative logjam in the Senate.

The lack of progress on the 2011 bills makes an omnibus appropriations measure that packages several bills together a probability for later this year.

While Wednesday's bill passed with the votes of Republicans eager to support veterans, bipartisan support is unlikely for the rest of the measures.

House Democrats since last year have been reluctant to guarantee floor votes on many GOP amendments, looking to avoid dozens of votes that would take up floor time and delay other measures.

GOP appropriators have argued that House leaders had traditionally allowed amendments to come to the floor. Last year, in protest of restrictions on amendments, Republican leaders called for a number of procedural motions to tie up the House floor and prevented consideration of other measures.

“This troop and veterans funding bill was crafted in a collaborative fashion and has had bi-partisan support since the very beginning," said Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the top GOP appropriator, in a statement Wednesday. "There is absolutely no reason why, at this point in time, the Democrat majority would throw this good will out the window, shut down the open process, and sideline the interests of millions of Americans who can no longer be fairly represented on the House floor."

Republicans have also sought lower spending levels, though House Democrats have set discretionary spending caps at a level $7 billion below President Obama's request.

The House plans to vote on its second 2011 spending bill, the measure for Transportation and Housing and Urban Development programs, before it goes on a one-month recess at the end of the week.

The Senate has yet to vote on any of the 12 bills.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the bill was approved in a voice vote.