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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) MoranAnti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Democrats work to pick up GOP support on anti-Asian hate crimes 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 HoevenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Senate GOP pushes back on list of participants in oil and gas leasing forum Small cities fret over feds redefining metro areas MORE (R-N.D.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Trump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances MORE (R-Alaska) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls 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 AlexanderSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Blunt's retirement deals blow to McConnell inner circle MORE (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study Biden aide: Ability to collect daily intel in Afghanistan 'will diminish' Leaving Afghanistan: Is it victory or defeat? 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.