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A trio of House Republicans who are eyeing 2012 bids for statewide office succeeded in changing the GOP's stopgap spending measure in ways that could bolster their campaign credentials.
The free-wheeling amendment process that GOP leaders allowed on the continuing resolution, which would fund the government from March 4 through Sept. 30, touched off contentious debates on a range of politically motivated messaging amendments, including proposals from GOP lawmakers looking to raise their profiles ahead of 2012.
GOP Reps. Mike Pence (Ind.), Denny Rehberg (Mont.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) all won approval for amendments to the spending bill this week. Pence is mulling a run for governor after ruling out a 2012 presidential campaign, and Rehberg and Flake announced this month that they will run for Senate in 2012.
Rehberg disputed the notion that his amendment, which would bar funds for implementation of last year's health care overhaul law, has anything to do with his challenge to first-term Sen. Jon Tester.
"Actually, this is not about my campaign, this about doing the right thing and that is defunding ObamaCare," said Rehberg, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services. "This has nothing to do with the Senate race, this has to do with representing the people of Montana and I think better representing the state and their philosophy."
Rehberg said his subcommittee chairmanship made him the natural choice to push the defunding amendment. He noted that he held 75 town hall meetings in his state during the previous Congress and has focused on repealing the law, a marquis legislative accomplishment for a fellow Montanan, Sen. Max Baucus (D).
Still, the Republican acknowledged his defunding effort and Tester's support of the law draw a sharp contrast for Montana voters — and the National Republican Senatorial Committee was quick to jump on it.
"Today's vote to defund ObamaCare highlights the stark contrasts between Montana Republicans and Senator Tester," NRSC Press Secretary Chris Bond said in a statement Friday "While Tester repeatedly put his love of ObamaCare ahead of the wishes and best interests of his state, Republicans have listened to the American people and today took decisive action to put a stop to the massive Tester-Obama health care overhaul. The differences could not be more clear for Montanans as they prepare to hold President Obama and Jon Tester accountable for their shared record in 2012."
Pence won adoption of an amendment that would bar all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, arguing that taxpayers should not subsidize the "largest abortion provider in America." The measure had the backing of 10 Democrats, and Pence hailed the vote as "a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life."