By Russell Berman – 02/18/11 02:56 PM ET
The House rejected a measure cutting an additional $22 billion from the Republican spending bill, as conservatives ran into a wall of opposition from the GOP establishment over the depth of reductions to federal funding.
The amendment backed by the conservative Republican Study Committee failed, 147-281, but not before putting the GOP spending divide under a spotlight on the House floor. Authored by RSC chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the proposal would have dramatically reshaped an appropriations bill that already slashes federal spending by $61 billion over the next seven months.
More than half of the Republican conference backed the measure in opposition to two party chiefs, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who voted with every Democrat against it. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not vote, as is traditional for Speakers.
The party’s fourth-ranking member, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), supported the measure, as did dozens of Republican freshman. Yet there was division even among the first-term, Tea Party-backed lawmakers. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), an elected freshman representative on the leadership team, opposed the bill, while Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), the freshman class president, supported it.
Like no previous proposal, the heated debate over the amendment drew a bright line through the GOP conference, pitting conservatives pushing the deepest spending cuts against senior Republicans who denounced them as “misguided,” “indiscriminate” and, in the case of Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.), “lazy.”
Republican committee chairmen like Lungren, Appropriations chief Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Jo Bonner (Ala.) made a rare stand alongside Democrats, while Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a former chairman of the GOP conference, spoke in strong support of the measure.
Republican opponents of the proposal cited the across-the-board nature of the cuts, saying they dodge difficult choices and would allow the Obama administration to decide where to implement them.
“We were elected to make choices, not to run on automatic pilot,” said Rogers, the author of the underlying legislation.
Lungren, chairman of the House Administration Committee, mounted an aggressive campaign against the measure, saying it would slash congressional budgets and cripple the Capitol Police’s ability to secure Congress.
He made a sharp attack on the authors of the conservative proposal on the House floor, saying “across-the-board cuts are a lazy member’s way to achieve something.”
That prompted an objection from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a co-sponsor of the amendment, who stood up to say she “would take issue with any member calling a member of this House lazy.”
Supporters of the Jordan proposal praised the effort by GOP leadership to craft significant spending cuts but they said deeper reductions were needed.
“We’ve got to go deeper than we’ve gone in this base bill,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) said.
Blackburn said: “I know not everyone is a fan of across the board cuts, but many of us are, and so are our constituents.”
While Republicans were critical of the measure, Democrats adopted an apocalyptic tone. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said that while the entire spending bill was “irresponsible,” the Jordan amendment would “commit this country to an economic death spiral.”
“This is a meat-ax approach on top of a meat-ax approach,” said Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “It is a double meat-ax approach.”