House Republicans closed ranks to pass legislation early Friday morning to avert a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 after reaching a compromise to offset additional spending and eliminate $100 million in the controversial Solyndra loan program.
The measure passed mostly along party lines 219 to 203.
“We don’t want to see the government shut down,” said Rep. David Drier (R.-Calif.), chairman of the House Rules Committee. “We want to make sure the people in need have the resources they need.”
Also, Rep. Hal Rogers (R.-Ky.) chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said billions of dollars in disaster aid added to the stopgap spending measure needed to be passed before this weekend, or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding “would dry up.”
The measure was initially defeated Wednesday night after 48 conservative Republicans bolted from the party and voted against it, saying the $1.43 trillion price tag was too high and busted the cap set by Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee.
“We made a promise to the American people that we would adhere to the Ryan budget, that we were going to get our spending under control, and yet this Continuing Resolution that came to the floor and was voted down yesterday broke the Ryan budget by $24 billion,” said Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa).
“If you spend $24 billion more than you promised the American people you were going to spend, we can’t hold the line for 10 years if we break our word in the first month or two,” King said.
The National Journal reported that House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) was “spitting nails” during a closed-door member meeting on Wednesday, “and his harsh talk demonstrated that the usually unflappable speaker is reaching something close to a breaking point with his internally divided conference.”
But during a press conference Thursday, Boehner suggested the setback was not unexpected.
“I understood what the risk was yesterday. But why not put the bill on the floor and let the members speak? And they did,” Boehner said.
“I have no fear of letting the House work its will,” Boehner said.
But asked what message he would send to those Republicans who still wanted to vote no, Boehner said, “They could vote no, but what they’re in essence doing is they are voting to spend more money, because that’s exactly what will happen.”
Democrats nearly unanimously opposed the Continuing Resolution (CR) because they wanted billions more in spending for disaster aid, and the measure initially failed 195 to 230.
King said Republicans needed to find more spending cuts from “some other account that’s less important than the people that have been suffering from natural disasters.”
So they did.
Republicans originally funded disaster aid at $3.6 billion, and offset the spending by cutting more than $1 billion from a loan fund to build more environmentally friendly cars. Now the deal includes $100 million more in offsets through cuts to the Energy Department loan fund that gave more than $500 million to the bankrupt Solyndra company, once touted as a success story by President Barack Obama.
“This is a very sad and tragic example of the kind of waste that is there,” Drier said.
“We have a $14.5 trillion national debt, we have deficits as far as the eye can see,” Drier said. “We need to realize there is a hell of a lot of waste in the federal government. You bet we are going to try and find areas where the federal government has been expending dollars that have not been spent wisely, and use those dollars to make sure that those who are suffering and in need have what is necessary for them to survive.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) criticized Republicans who changed their vote for the Solyndra provision, saying the difference it makes in the offset is minuscule.
“I’m sure your Tea Party friends will be impressed that for four-tenths of a percent, you changed your vote,” Hoyer said.
In addition to keeping the government operating at current spending levels, the CR includes an additional $3.6 billion for FEMA and other disaster aid spending.
Democrats objected to the bill because they wanted $6.9 billion in emergency spending without any offsets, and without their support in the Senate to pass the measure before Congress adjourns this week to observe Rosh Hashanah, the government still faces a shutdown.
“Twenty-four hours later we have the very same bill, that still contains unacceptable cuts,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) called Republicans “job destroyers” for shifting the funding intended for environmental cars to disaster aid.
“Bring a clean CR to the floor, lets get serious about the people’s business,” Pelosi said.
Earlier in the day, Senate Democrats also called for a “clean CR” that did not cut funding to offset the deficit.
“Pass a clean CR. We shouldn’t be playing politics with disaster aid,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill).
Democrats said they are concerned this will set a precedent on disaster spending, but Republicans said that such offsets were also made on funding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina funding.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declined to keep Senators past midnight to take up the measure once it passed the House, and said work on it could wait until Friday morning.
However, House Democrats warned Republicans that without the additional billions for FEMA, the bill would be dead on arrival in the Senate.