- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Facing a rebellion among their conservative members, House Republicans had to turn to Democrats on Tuesday to pass a short-term spending bill that will delay a government shutdown by three weeks.

The bill, which cuts $4.6 billion from 2010 spending levels and rescinds another $1.4 billion in unspent money from before, now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass — but not before conservatives gave Republican House leaders heartburn.

“It’s clear from today’s vote that the House shares the American people’s frustration with Washington Democrats’ failure to offer a credible long-term plan to cut spending,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said after the vote, explaining the division among Republicans.

The vote to pass the bill was 271-158, with 54 Republicans voting against. That meant that without the support of at least some of the 85 Democrats who voted for it, the bill would have failed, and Republican leaders would have had to scramble to write a new bill before Friday, which is when the current stopgap funding bill runs out.

The White House endorsed the three-week bill, but all sides said they hope it will be the last one needed. The government has been running on stopgap funding since Oct. 1, the start of fiscal year 2011.

Democrats, who controlled the House, Senate and the White House last year, failed to pass any of a dozen proposed annual spending bills. Republicans, who won control of the House in November’s elections, have passed a full-year spending bill cutting tens of billions of dollars, but the Senate - still controlled by Democrats - rejected that, and has yet to pass its own version.

Instead, both chambers have passed a series of short-term measures, and Tuesday’s House vote is the latest.

Conservatives objected for a host of reasons. Some wanted to see deeper spending cuts in the short-term bill, while others wanted the measure to defund parts of government, including the new health care law or Planned Parenthood.

“We cannot kick the can down the road for even another three weeks. The American people recognize that we must no longer take these small calculated measures,” said Rep. Allen B. West, a Florida Republican who voted against the bill.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the House bill, which incorporates many of President Obama’s own proposed spending cuts, “gives Congress some breathing room” to pass a longer-term bill to fund the government for the rest of 2011.

But Mr. Carney gave no signal that the president is about to take a more active role in negotiating a final compromise — something Republicans say is needed if that new deadline is going to be met.

It’s also unclear when that work will get done. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to take another weeklong vacation next week, and Mr. Obama is flying to Latin American later this week to visit three countries.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the man Mr. Obama tapped to lead negotiations several weeks ago, has returned from his own European trip - apparently to the surprise of some House Republicans. During the floor debate Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, wondered when he would return and Rep. Norman D. Dicks, Washington Democrat, shouted out “He’s back!”

“Oh thank God,” deadpanned Mr. LaTourette.

Where the revolt among the GOP came from one wing of the party, Democrats were divided up and down the line, including at the very top. Both their leader and their assistant leader, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and James E. Clyburn, voted against the bill, while Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Budget Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Mr. Dicks, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, all voted for it.

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