To date, the House has passed six of the 12 annual spending bills and the Senate has passed four, including the three voted on Tuesday. Congress has needed to pass two short-term spending measures this year, including one that narrowly passed the House in September. The majority of Democrats voted against that measure, which was also opposed by 24 Republicans. Hoyer's letter, a Democratic aide pointed out, was also a political signal that he would not deliver votes Republican leaders might need to pass another spending bill if the GOP has a large number of defectors. Hoyer particularly wants riders taken off the table that would stall funding for the Affordable Care Act and weaken environmental regulations.
"They're going to have to work with us to get these appropriations bills passed because 24 Republicans voted against the CR in September," the Democratic aide said. "If they lose that many votes, can they still pass their bills? Or are they going to have to come to us for votes? If they do, we've made it clear: No controversial policy riders."
Partisan rancor had been growing in the House and Senate Appropriations committees in recent years and came to a head this year after Republicans won control of the House following the 2010 election.
Buoyed by the victory, Republicans sought to make good on campaign promises to cut spending and reduce the deficit, which — with the Senate still under Democratic control — made agreeing to appropriations extremely difficult.
Congress needed to pass seven short-term funding measures in order to keep the government operating past the Sept. 30, 2010, end of fiscal 2011 while a deal was negotiated by President Barack Obama, Boehner and Reid.
A final deal was ultimately struck in mid-April, but the string of partisan sparring delayed work on the fiscal 2012 spending process. Fiscal 2012 began Oct. 1.