Senate GOP fight breaks open over spending bills

An internal split in the Republican Party emerged Thursday when a half-dozen GOP senators voted for a transportation appropriations bill that would spend $2.4 billion more than what President Obama requested.

The funding level approved in the committee vote would be $10 billion more than what the GOP-held House allocated.

The vote shows that Republicans on Capitol Hill are split on funding levels, which will hamper the GOP leaders in their negotiations with Democrats to avert a government shutdown later this year.

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The six Republican senators, including Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranTIMELINE: The GOP's failed effort to repeal ObamaCare The Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal IT modernization measure included in Senate-approved defense policy bill MORE (Kan.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a member of leadership, joined Democrats in supporting the measure. Besides Moran, Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal Air Force One is Trump’s new boardroom Overnight Finance: Trump strikes debt, spending deal with Dems | Deal shocks GOP | Fed’s No. 2 to resign | Trump keeps tax squeeze on red state Dems | House aims to pass budget next week MORE (R-N.D.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranWhite House requests B for disaster relief GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers Whatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong MORE (R-Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGun proposal picks up GOP support Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans jockey for position on immigration GOP senator knocks Trump: 'Not a fan of governing by tweet' How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed MORE (R-Alaska) and Mark KirkMark KirkGiffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Immigration critics find their champion in Trump MORE (R-Ill.) all voted with Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Club for Growth immediately criticized senators who supported the bill.

“They’re absolutely tone deaf when understanding what the conservative base and the American people support,” said Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs at the Club for Growth. “They’re still operating under the business as usual playbook that the public has discarded. Politicians act like politicians no matter how hard you try to reform them. This is a perfect example.”

Collins blasted the House GOP spending levels and defended her vote.

“Have members actually reviewed what is in the House transportation and housing bill as a result of the allocation they received?” Collins asked her GOP colleagues. “Are we to be just a rubber stamp for the bill?”

Collins note that the House bill cuts nearly $1 billion from the Community Development Block Grant program, which she called one of the most popular federal programs. The Senate bill has $3.15 billion for the grants used by local communities, compared to $1.6 billion in the House.

“That is an historic low for that program,” she said. “That would be devastating for economic projects across this country.”

Moran, Hoeven, Cochran, Collins, Murkowski, Kirk and Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (R-S.C.) also voted in committee for the Energy and Water appropriations bill, which exceeds Obama’s request by $290 million.

The bill is $4.3 billion over the level set by House Republicans.

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, voted against the measures. He said they put the committee on course to bust budget limits reiterated by the year-end deal fiscal-cliff deal and the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

“I voted no,” he said. “All those bills are going to exceed the cap, sooner or later, in the aggregate. They’re going to total up and be subject to a [budgetary] point of order.”

Shelby said some of his GOP colleagues favor the bills and are well within their right to vote according to their preference. But in the end, he said the Senate GOP conference will vote to sustain the spending limits imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act and sequestration.

—Erik Wasson contributed to this story.