- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2011

Drawing a line on how deeply they are willing to cut, a coalition of congressional Democrats and Republicans on Friday shot down an effort to slice another $22 billion from this year’s federal spending levels.

The move leaves intact the House Republican leaders’ overall 2011 spending bill, which cuts more than $60 billion from 2010 levels, but signals a bipartisan coalition is coalescing around the position that any additional chopping would hurt vital government services

“Some of the amendments have just gone too far. This one goes too far,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, Idaho Republican.

The House is pushing to finish the spending bills for the current fiscal year that Democrats left undone last year, and is trying to finish the bill Friday and send it on to the Senate to meet a March 4 deadline.

But Congress is on a weeklong vacation next week and Senate leaders have already announced they plan to move to a bill dealing with patents when they return, setting up the possibility of a government shutdown.

Republicans, who control the House, say the government’s basic spending can stand to be whittled down, while Democrats say the GOP’s proposed cuts go too deep and said continued government spending is the only way to prop up U.S. jobs right now.

Still, there are divisions within both parties, with some conservative Democrats joining Republicans to pass specific cuts and some moderate Republicans joining Democrats to protect federal grants to local police and firefighters.

Then there is a bloc of conservative Republicans who wanted broader cuts across the board. They offered an amendment that would have brought non-security spending down to below its level in 2008, or just before spending linked to Mr. Obama’s stimulus program helped balloon federal outlays.

“Families and businesses have had to cut back, and they’re demanding that Washington do the same,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the House conservative caucus.

In the end, more than half of the chamber’s Republicans joined with him, but it wasn’t enough. The House voted 281-147 to block the deeper cuts, powered by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and senior Republicans.

The breadth of issues the House has voted on this week is stunning, working their way through a slew of amendments.

On Friday lawmakers voted chiefly along party lines to defund the government’s ability to carry out Mr. Obama’s new health care law, and voted to strip federal funds from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

Along the way the House turned back Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s amendment to stop the Defense Department from spending recruitment money to sponsor auto racing teams, shot down an effort to wind down the war in Afghanistan and voted to preserve agriculture subsidy payments the U.S. makes to Brazilian cotton growers — a payoff to keep the Brazilian government from imposing trade sanctions on the U.S.

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