The House of Representatives spent all week and several late nights debating hundreds of amendments to the Omnibus appropriations bill that would continue our federal government funding through Sept. 30, 2011. The amendments were permitted to be offered under the new GOP leadership practices outlined by Speaker Boehner during the opening days of the 112th Congress. This is the first time in over four years where any member of the House is permitted to offer a floor amendment to a massive spending bill. This new open and transparent way of operating the House resulted in having over 700 amendments filed in the Congressional Record for possible floor consideration. Once the dust settled and the House ultimately passed the bill it turned out that more than half of the couple of hundred amendments considered were authored by Republican members of the House.
The amendments ran the gambit from defunding or severely cutting items like mohair subsidies, funds to the EPA to implement cap and trade regulations to cutting Planned Parenthood funds and the funding for the national endowment for the arts. One GOP amendment cut all federal funding for some of the Obama administration’s CZARS if those positions hadn’t been confirmed by the Senate. Another huge policy change was in the form of amendments that weaken the Administration’s Wall Street-financial reform bill and defund all provisions of Obama Care. The bill passed by a vote (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll147.xml) of 235 to 189 after the House conducted 105 roll call votes. The House adjourned just before 5AM Saturday. Both the House and Senate are now in recess for the President’s day holiday until Monday, Feb. 28. The Senate was able to wrap up the Federal Aviation administration bill before they adjourned for the holiday and both chambers were able to pass a 3 month extension of the Patriot act.
The prospect of the Omnibus appropriations bill passing the Senate when they reconvene is basically nil. Sen. Reid said in a statement that he is prepared to pass a 30 day continuing resolution because the House GOP cuts and defunding of hundreds of programs cannot pass the Senate. Speaker Boehner wants any extension bill to include some across the board funding cuts. Congressional democrats are opposing the Boehner plan. Unless an agreement can be reached on a brief extension, funding for our federal government will cease as of close of business on March 4, 2011. The House chairman of the appropriations committee, Cong. Lewis (R-CA) said late Friday: “There’s absolutely no way” the government will shut down.
In the meantime, House and Senate members will be back in their states and districts this week hearing from their constituents. Stay tuned to see if these back home visits help resolve the game of chicken that is occurring between the House and Senate when Congress reconvenes on Monday, Feb. 28, 2011. Let your voice be heard on GradeGov.com and tell you member of Congress how you feel about the cuts and defunding of 100's of administration programs.
Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of GradeGov.com (http://www.gradegov.com)