By Vicki Needham - 03/01/11 11:58 PM EST
A longer-term measure that cut $61 billion in spending for the remainder of the year passed the House on Feb. 19 and faced nearly unified Democratic opposition. House Republicans then opted during the weeklong recess to craft a second bill that would cut $4 billion from previously designated earmarks and terminations included in President Obama's fiscal 2012 budget.
The move put Democrats in a difficult spot to oppose cuts that they had supported in the past, leading to relatively quick passage for the short-term measure.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Democrats were resigned to passing the House GOP's short-term measure, but called it "a terrible way to govern."
Senate Democrats and the White House had made multiple suggestions to Republicans on a different way to proceed — including a 30-day measure — all rejected by the House GOP.
"We’ll pass this and then we will look at funding on a long-term basis. The president is going to get involved in this," Reid said earlier.
He called many of the House cuts proposed in a longer continuing resolution “wrong headed" and praised a new report by the Government Accountability Office that identified $34 billion in wasteful and duplicative federal programs, saying that could be a place to start cutting.
Still, President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had spoken by phone earlier today and had a "good" conversation about the CR and ensuring that the government wouldn't shut down.
Meanwhile, the House easily approved the CR on a 335-91 vote, with more than 100 Democrats joining all but six Republicans in support of the measure that House Republicans introduced on Friday.
More Democrats voted for the measure than against it, despite criticism of the GOP proposal ahead of the vote by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democratic leader and former Speaker.
Democratic leadership was divided. Pelosi voted no, but House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) voted for it. Democratic leaders urged their members to vote against the rule for the bill, but did not urge their members to vote against the spending measure itself.
The six Republicans voting against the bill were Justin Amash (Mich.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Walter Jones (N.C), Steve King (Iowa), and Ron Paul (Texas).
Republicans also said a two-week extension would give the Senate more time to consider a full-fiscal year spending bill, H.R. 1, that would cut $61 billion from current funding levels.
Democrats focused almost all of their attention on that measure, passed by the House last month, which they think cuts too deeply. Several stressed economic estimates that the bill would lead to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, and said it had no chance of moving ahead in the Senate or the White House.
"H.R. 1 is clearly not acceptable to the other body, nor would it be acceptable to the president, whose signature is necessary before any funding bill can become law," said House Budget Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.). "What the president has already proposed for the coming year, a budget freeze at last year's level, remains in my judgment the most effective way to reduce the deficit and to support recovery in major sectors of our economy."
Dicks added that recent comments from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in which he said Republicans might make Democrats swallow budget cuts "one slice at a time," are worrying.
"We were concerned by his statement that seemed to indicate a plan for a piecemeal approach to future spending cuts," Dicks said.
Dicks was joined by Republicans who likewise said the next step should be a complete budget for the rest of the year, not temporary extensions. But Republicans repeated that the short-term continuing resolution was needed because the Senate failed to the larger bill and called on the Senate to begin its work on a budget.
"This two-week continuing resolution, with its $4 billion in savings, is acceptable as a temporary stopgap," said Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). "But after agreeing to this short-term measure, the Senate must buckle down and get to work on passing the full-year continuing resolution the House sent them two weeks ago."
Pete Kasperowicz, Erik Wasson and Alexander Bolton contributed to this story.