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.

ADVERTISEMENT
The six Republican senators, including Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranRepublicans rebuke Trump over Charlottesville remarks GOP senator wants classified briefing on North Korea McConnell faces questions, but no test to his leadership 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 HoevenGOP senator criticizes EPA head's closed-door meeting in North Dakota Senate GOP eyes end to August session McCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty MORE (R-N.D.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranGOP senators ask Trump to hold off on Venezuelan oil sanctions Both sides of the aisle agree — telemedicine is the future Overnight Finance: GOP offers measure to repeal arbitration rule | Feds fine Exxon M for Russian sanctions violations | Senate panel sticks with 2017 funding levels for budget | Trump tax nominee advances | Trump unveils first reg agenda MORE (R-Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsOPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct No. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act isn’t over MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiFeds to sell 14 million barrels from oil reserve Immigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP Trump barrage stuns McConnell and his allies MORE (R-Alaska) and Mark KirkMark KirkImmigration critics find their champion in Trump Trump's nominee to lead USAID has the right philosophy on international aid McConnell: Senate to try to repeal ObamaCare next week 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 AlexanderTrump to make ObamaCare payments to insurers for August CBO: ObamaCare premiums could rise 20 percent if Trump ends payments CBO to release report Tuesday on ending ObamaCare insurer payments MORE (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGraham: Trump's Charlottesville rhetoric 'dividing Americans, not healing them' OPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct Supporting 'Dreamers' is our civic and moral duty 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.