HHS spending bill stuck in impasse

The two lawmakers, Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), say the spending measure costs too much and are demanding spending reductions, sources tell The Hill. Last week they sent a letter to House leaders saying they want spending levels for all spending bills to be in line with the budget put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and approved by the House, instead of the debt-ceiling deal. 

We write to remind you that the spending cap for Fiscal Year 2012 included in the debt limit deal is a spending ceiling and not a spending floor, the lawmakers wroteThe House simply cannot push the level of discretionary spending for the coming year upwards as its first action after the extended debt ceiling debate.

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Under the Ryan budget, spending for health, education and labor programs would have been set at $139 billion, an $18 billion cut over this years levels. The new committee bill, which was never announced and has been repeatedly delayed, is expected to be somewhat higher.

I cant speak to why the committee isnt moving the bill forward, a Flake spokeswoman told The Hill, but Congressman Flake is opposed to it.

Lummis’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the congresswoman was a lead sponsor of last weeks letter.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies has eight Republicans and five Democrats, so the GOP cannot afford to lose two members on a vote thats not expected to attract any members of the other party. Democrats want much higher spending levels, closer to the $158 billion spending bill that the subcommittees Senate counterpart approved along party lines Tuesday.

The House subcommittee was scheduled to take up the bill Sept. 9, but it was indefinitely postponed. An Appropriations Committee staffer at the time said the bill was pulled to avoid conflicting with markup of the transportation spending bill.

During Tuesdays Senate markup, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate subcommittee, said the House spending bill wasnt going anywhere because Republicans couldnt muster enough votes to pass it, and [have] abandoned all attempts to do so. A spokeswoman for the House panel responded that Harkin isnt on the committee, but acknowledged that the markup hasnt been rescheduled.