WASHINGTON – The GOP-led House approved a short-term spending bill Tuesday but only after dozens of Republicans abandoned the effort, forcing party leaders to rely on Democrats to achieve passage and help skirt a threatened government shutdown.
The vote showed clearly the mounting difficulty of resolving a budget stalemate that has consumed Washington for weeks. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill before Friday, when government funding to keep agencies operating runs out. But similar resistance from conservatives is expected in that chamber.
With conservatives rejecting their party’s stopgap proposal as inadequate, the vote also showed the trouble ahead for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as he negotiates a long-term deal with Democrats on behalf of a deeply split Republican caucus.
The White House, meanwhile, said it was time to resolve the budget impasse “in a sensible way.”
Talks continue behind the scenes on a compromise that would keep the government running through the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
As the two sides struggle, public opinion surveys have not given a decided advantage to either camp. Voters oppose a possible disruption of government services and would tend to blame Republicans more than Democrats. Yet surveys also show that many Americans credit congressional Republicans with taking a greater leadership role than President Barack Obama in Washington.
At the same time, Americans continue to trust the president more than Republicans in Congress to handle economic issues, according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey.
Boehner acknowledged the push-back from within his ranks, but said the GOP would have an additional opportunity to rein in deficits during the upcoming debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
The House voted 271-158 on the stopgap measure that would cut $6 billion over the next three weeks, largely by eliminating programs Obama had already identified for termination or reductions, as well as specially earmarked congressional projects.
Coupled with the previously approved temporary bill, Congress would have cut $10 billion in just over a month.
Still, 54 Republicans broke ranks to vote no, saying the temporary bill represented a timid version of the earlier House-passed measure, which would cut more than $60 billion through September.
The GOP defectors were mostly veteran conservatives who aligned with more than 20 conservative freshmen.
They were particularly upset that top policy priorities had been dropped from the bill. Shelved for now are attempts to defund Obama’s national health care plan, gut Planned Parenthood or eliminate the power of the Environmental Protection Agency.