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 MoranJerry MoranMeet the rising GOP star who already enrages the left GOP warming up to Cuba travel Senate clears FAA authorization 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 HoevenMajority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention Death threats against senators remained on Twitter for 2 weeks Senate panel approves funding boost for TSA MORE (R-N.D.), Thad CochranThad CochranWhy a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform Capitol locked down for second time in a week This week: Congress eyes the exits in dash to recess MORE (R-Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsThe Trail 2016: Words matter Lobbyists bolting Trump convention early GOP sen at convention: I'm not ruling out voting for Clinton MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiBig Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund Overnight Energy: House passes first Interior, EPA spending bill in seven years MORE (R-Alaska) and Mark KirkMark KirkNBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law GOP groups scale back support for Sen. Johnson Top GOP senator: Trump will have little effect on Senate races 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal MORE (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine Meghan McCain: ‘I no longer recognize my party’ Ex-UN ambassador John Bolton: Trump should take back NATO remarks 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.