With the help of 81 Democrats,the House passed legislation Thursday to fund the government through September and avoid a government shutdown. Fifty-nine Republicans defected from GOP leadership, leaving Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) woefully short of the necessary majority to pass the bill without Democratic help. The final vote was 260-167.
The fact that Boehner needed nearly 40 Democratic votes to pass the resolution and avoid a government shutdown was a stunning blow to his leadership, especially after he shut House Democrats out of budget negotiations and just a few days ago dismissed the need to secure any Democratic votes.
The GOP defections came after news reports revealed that the legislation will only cut $350 million in immediate spending — not the $38 billion that had been advertised. Indeed, the defections may have been worse if Republican leaders hadn’t enlisted the help of Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of George W. Bush’s budget office, to explain the massive discrepancy to skeptical members Thursday morning. Holtz-Eakin ran through his presentation again Thursday afternoon on a conference call with bloggers.
He asked the conservative advocates on the line to engage in a thought experiment. If the Department of Education’s only responsibilities were paying employees and buying books, its annual budget might not reflect both expenditures because books take time to process and deliver — and might not be paid for until the next fiscal year. A spending cut deal like this one, he argued, prevents the Department of Education from buying more books — and thus the savings don’t materialize right away.
“It’s activities like that, that span fiscal years, that make it hard to get the full impact in one year,” he said. “I’m perfectly willing to speculate that there are some who would be happy to take advantage of that confusion.”
Democrats largely withheld their votes as they waited for the roll call to tick past the 218 “yeahs”. While aides to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) watched the leader board from the floor, Dems forced Republican swing-votes to put themselves on the record before they knew whether the bill would pass or not. Once passage was assured, votes flooded in, including from 15 additional Republicans, previously on the fence, who opposed the bill from the right.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) — a former member of House GOP leadership — called the deal “not good enough.” But like many Republicans unhappy with the deal, he refused to publicly criticized Boehner or the current leadership team.
“My frustration, and the frustration I know of many Republicans who voted “no” was focused squarely on liberals in the Senate and this administration,” he told reporters after the vote.
“I felt I needed to put my vote where my mouth has been.” said Freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), “I don’t begrudge anybody.”
In a rare move for a House Speaker, Boehner voted for his spending bill.
House Democratic leaders were split on the vote. Pelosi, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) all opposed the spending bill. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), along with Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-WA), and incoming DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) all voted for the compromise.
“I voted no on the CR today-we can do better by women, students, #DC and investing in our future,” Pelosi tweeted.
The spending legislation now heads to the Senate, where it’s expected to sail through overwhelmingly Thursday afternoon.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.