The House continued its slow march toward passage of a continuing resolution today, with a flood of amendments rolling through the chamber, including four amendments to defund the health care overhaul signed into law last year.
And following an intra-party scuffle in the GOP, the House defeated an amendment 281-147 offered by members of the Republican Study Committee that would have cut $22 billion more from the CR by reducing Congress’ budget by 11 percent in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and cutting other non-security spending by an additional 5.5 percent, with the exception of aid to Israel.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., offered the RSC amendment, on behalf of the group and the RSC chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio
“I know not everyone is a fan of across-the-board cuts, but some of us are,” Blackburn, adding that it is a “responsible” move to reduce the deficit.
Jordan said “families and businesses have had to cut back, and they’re demanding that Washington do the same. This week, Republicans are taking the first step to getting the country’s finances in order. This is already a good bill, but I believe we can make it even better.”
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a new member of the Appropriation Committee, also supported the additional cuts and argued that the $60 billion in discretionary spending reductions in the CR amount to a “rounding error” compared with the $1.6 trillion deficit.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., opposed the proposal, noting that the CR is was carefully crafted to minimize the pain.
“The House package already represents the largest cut in the history of the nation,” Rogers said. “These reductions were tough, they were thoughtful.”
“The Jordan amendment hits everything indiscriminately, in a heavy handed way,” Rogers said. “We were elected to make choices, not run on auto pilot.”
House Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks, D-Wash., called the amendment “irresponsible” and recited a list of where the amendment would slash even more from the already austere CR.
“This is a meat ax approach on top of a meat ax approach,” Dicks said.
The four health care amendments attracted considerable vitriol.
One health care amendment, offered by House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., would deny funding for the law from the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill. That amendment passed 239-187. “It will create a firewall so that funds from this bill cannot be for that purpose,” Rehberg said on the floor.
The House also passed, 246-182, an amendment by House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., to deny funds to allow the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the individual mandate to purchase health insurance in the health care law.
The House passed two amendments from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that sought to defund the health care law in other parts of the budget.
Democrats argued that pulling the funds threatens many gains made in the law, including a provision beginning in 2014 prohibiting insurance companies for denying coverage for a pre-existing condition.
“This amendment would take away the consumer protections of the [law, and] put the insurance companies back in charge, said Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking on the floor, said the chamber is “driving itself to irrelevance with the amendment process here, but that’s another subject.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., took umbrage at hyperbolic GOP depictions of the new health care law as the worst law ever by asking, “What about the slave laws? What about the fugitive slave laws?”
At one point, King quipped, “I can’t imagine what it was like in this chamber before the invention of television.”
The House also defeated an amendment, 306-123, that would strike funding this fiscal year for two defense programs – the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and the Army’s Surface-Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, which the Pentagon canceled in its fiscal 2012 budget request.
The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., argued against continuing to pay for programs that already are slated for cancellation. But opponents, including the leaders of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said those funds were needed to responsibly end the programs.
An amendment numbered to prohibit funds to be used for the Defense Department's sponsorship of NASCAR race cars, offered by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., was defeated 281-148.
And an amendment by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to deny funding to Planned Parenthood passed, 240-185.
House GOP leaders hoped to finish the bill Friday night, though there were 18 hours of debate over 100 amendments to consider, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said.
Megan Scully contributed contributed to this article.
This article appears in the February 18, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.