Split GOP helps House pass long-term spending measure
House Republicans were clearly conflicted -- most did not like being shut out of the negotiations, some thought it spent too much money and others thought it spent too little.
Many did not want to be seen as opposing "must-pass" legislation providing benefits for veterans and active-duty military, education, job-training and local law-enforcement.
"When you're in the minority and you've got a $463 billion bill, you can criticize it both ways because it's a huge bill," said Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jack Kingston, R-Ga.
"I think the bigger conflict is when you don't have a unified vote, and that's been our big problem" both for the Democrats' "Six for '06" agenda and on the massive spending bill, he said.
That spending bill funds the remaining federal programs that were not contained in the Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills that passed last year. It extends last year's budgets for most programs, but makes targeted increases and cuts in a variety of accounts while remaining within the budget cap set last year.
The vote was 286-140, a relatively lopsided outcome with the Republican defections. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Democratic leaders have a tougher task in obtaining the necessary 60 votes to cut off debate and pass the bill. The clock is ticking, as the current continuing resolution expires Feb. 15.
Despite lobbying from House Republican leaders and Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., a surprising number of rank-and-file GOP lawmakers crossed party lines to vote for the package.
Even a handful of Republican members of the Appropriations Committee voted "yes," including Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member James Walsh, R-N.Y.
Some Republicans who had criticized the measure for not funding their priorities wound up supporting it. Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Va., who complained that Democrats were funding base realignment and closure accounts at $3 billion below the White House request, voted for it. So did Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who complained it did not extend a program providing funds for rural school districts affected by declining timber sales.
Appropriations member Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, bucked Lewis in voting for the bill and GOP leaders as well by becoming the sole Republican to support the Democrats' rule for floor debate.
"There's some things in this I don't like, but it's hard for me to complain about it because we left them with such a pile of shit from the end of the last session," Simpson said. "Republicans were in charge in the House and Senate and we didn't do our job."
Lewis and GOP leaders did hold the party together -- mostly -- on a procedural vote that would have shifted nearly $600 million from projects funded in previous years, such as the now-infamous Iowa "indoor rainforest," to military housing, drug enforcement and deficit reduction.
That motion to recommit failed on a near party-line vote with Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico the sole GOP defector. The motion would have redirected funds in part from some Energy Department projects in her state.
Two Democrats voted against the underlying bill. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio opposed it because it contains $6 billion for nuclear weapons research. He has voted against every Energy and Water spending bill since 2002.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania voted 'no' because there was not enough time to review funding cuts in the bill, his office said.