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Spending Bill Risks GOP Defectors

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner (center) has not yet said whether he is prepared to bring legislation to the House floor that would fund the president's health care law and that would pass with mostly Democratic votes.

The short timeline — the current continuing resolution expires Dec. 16 — combined with the large number of legislative priorities on the docket and weariness from spending battles waged all year have Members’ tempers fraying.

McCarthy, for instance, unloaded on House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) at a closed-door Whip meeting late Tuesday, two aides present at the meeting said.

Dreier had taken to the House floor Nov. 17 to explain why he was voting against the balanced budget amendment, undercutting the GOP’s spending message.

“McCarthy was furious that the chairman of the Rules Committee — the Speaker’s Committee — used the Committee’s time on the floor to hang the rest of the Republican Conference out to dry on a bill they strongly support. The freshmen in particular were upset about that, and McCarthy was defending them,” said one of the aides.

Dreier and McCarthy have a bit of a history. In late August, McCarthy quashed a Dreier-led effort to oppose California’s new Congressional map via ballot initiative. Dreier’s district was dismantled by the new district lines.

Meanwhile, some freshman Members have expressed a desire to vote for omnibus legislation with spending levels consistent with the House-passed budget before voting on the final bill, which has numbers consistent with the August debt ceiling deal.

Add in conservative anxiety about extending the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, which are Democratic priorities, and the situation is a tinder box, Members and aides say.

Two factors are giving the appropriators leverage to push against brinkmanship with the Senate and President Barack Obama.

First is the coming holiday break. As Christmas approaches, many Members will want to return home.

“There are a lot of discussions going on in this building about how we’re going to get out of here over the next two-and-a-half weeks,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday.

The second factor is, after the failure of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, a desire to do something — to show that Congress can act.

“The Speaker said this morning, ‘No CR,’” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said about Boehner’s remarks at a Wednesday morning conference meeting.

“He didn’t want to do a CR, he told the conference, because a CR would have lower defense numbers, is one observation that he made. And it was his objective to get the appropriations process finished,” LaTourette said. Following the megabus approach would allow all sides an opportunity to insert some of their priorities.

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