- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2011

Seeking to outflank Democrats, House Republicans announced early Thursday morning they had introduced a new 1,219-page spending bill to keep the government open past Friday, when current funding is scheduled to run out.

At a total of $915 billion in discretionary spending, the bill amounts to $750.6 million per page and funds the vast majority of government operations, from defense to homeland security to federal parks.

The bill is a direct challenge to Democrats and the White House, which late Wednesday called on Congress to pass a short-term stopgap spending bill to buy more time to negotiate a payroll tax cut deal.

In a statement, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said President Obama has “significant concerns” about the broad spending bill, which he said would cut away at Mr. Obama’s actions on the environment and financial regulation.

Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution as it has seven times already this year so that all parties have an appropriate opportunity to consider and complete all of the critical budget and economic issues necessary to finish our responsibilities for the year,” Mr. Pfeiffer said.

Current stop-gap funding runs out at the end of Friday, and without a new bill the government would face a partial shutdown.

The White House’s objections to the spending bill come late in the game, and seem at odds with other Democrats who said the agreement was done, and even with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who earlier Wednesday said there was no final agreement but said one could be reached easily.

“I think we could complete it very quickly if people sat down and focused on what we need to do to get out of here,” he said on the Senate floor.

Mr. Reid, though, said he wanted to get a deal on extending the payroll tax at the same time, so Congress voted on both major end-of-year bills.

Republicans accused Democrats of holding the spending bill agreement hostage in order to use it as leverage in the payroll tax fight.

The new spending bill is a way to maneuver around that blockade.

If House Republicans power it through their chamber, the House will have passed both a spending bill and a payroll tax cut bill, which they hope will put pressure on the Senate to accept those bills as is.

Mr. Obama has already vowed to veto the GOP tax-cut bill, saying it includes new spending cuts that would go deeper than he wants.

The spending bill Republicans introduced early Thursday adheres to the discretionary spending cap Mr. Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner settled on in this summer’s debt negotiations.

Combined with a smaller spending bill that passed last month, discretionary spending in fiscal year 2010 will total $1.043 trillion — $7 billion less than last year’s level, and $98 billion less than Mr. Obama had proposed spending in the budget he sent Congress in February.

Republican and Democratic negotiators from the House and Senate had been working on the final spending bill for weeks, and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, Kentucky Republican, said he took that work and put it into the new bill he introduced.

“As is the case in any successful agreement, not everyone got everything they wanted. But, this is a good bill that strikes a reasonable balance between reduced spending, wise federal investments, and policy changes that American businesses need to thrive,” Mr. Rogers continued.

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