OPIOID SERIES:

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) MoranOvernight Finance: Senate repeals auto-lending guidance, shattering precedent with vote | House passes IRS reform bills | Senate GOP fears tax cut sequel Senate repeals auto-loan guidance in precedent-shattering vote Overnight Finance: Officials downplay Trump comments on trade, China currency | Fed official defends moves on bank regulation | Russia sanctions snag pits Kudlow against Haley | IRS deals with Tax Day tech trouble 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 HoevenLobbying World Worried GOP views Trump trade war with angst Conservatives fear trade war could cripple tax cuts message MORE (R-N.D.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranChamber of Commerce makes play in Mississippi Senate race for Hyde-Smith Shelby approved as Appropriations panel chairman Cindy Hyde-Smith sworn in as Mississippi's latest senator MORE (R-Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign Trump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama Family, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators press administration on mental health parity Overnight Energy: Watchdogs unveil findings on EPA, Interior controversies | GAO says EPA violated law with soundproof booth | IG says Zinke could have avoided charter flight | GOP chair probes Pruitt's four email addresses GOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe MORE (R-Alaska) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns 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 AlexanderMaternal deaths keep rising in US, raising scrutiny Supreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes Senators press administration on mental health parity MORE (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination Senate panel moving ahead with Mueller bill despite McConnell opposition Overnight Defense: Lawmakers worry over Syria strategy | Trump's base critical of strikes | Flake undecided on Pompeo | Coast Guard plans to keep allowing transgender members | GOP chair wants to cut B from Pentagon agencies 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.