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Boehner Defends Transparency but Won’t Commit to Open Rule

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Speaker John Boehner said today that the appropriations process during his tenure is the “most open process we’ve seen for ... some time” but did not commit to open rules on forthcoming spending bills as Congress looks to wrap up the 2012 appropriations process.

“We’re trying to jump-start a process that really hasn’t worked very well in the last four or five years. I think you learn early on you have to creep before you walk,” the Ohio Republican said.

Conservatives pushing for open rules are focusing especially on six appropriations bills that have not passed the House floor but could now be passed for the first time as part of bigger packages.

For instance, the minibus passed by the Senate on Tuesday that is headed to a conference committee includes two appropriations bills — the Commerce, Justice and science and the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bills — that have not seen House floor action.

“We’ve had over 500 amendments to appropriations bills considered on the floor of the House,” Boehner said.

In contrast to Boehner defending his tenure and responding to criticism, the mood of the GOP Conference at an earlier meeting was celebratory regarding the small, but significant, progress the House and Senate is making in working on a minibus approach to appropriations, Rep. Brian Bilbray said.

“Finally the Senate is sending something over on the budget,” the California Republican told Roll Call in a brief interview. “A lot of these guys in Congress that have been in two terms and have never seen a bill come from the Senate. So it’s like, ‘Hello! Somebody’s alive over there!’”

In the closed-door weekly Conference meeting, Boehner criticized the lack of movement in the Senate on the House GOP’s jobs agenda, according to a source in the room.

In particular, Boehner lamented the delay in taking up a 3 percent withholding bill that has bipartisan support and the backing of the White House.

Boehner’s comments are part of a coordinated effort between House and Senate Republicans to put pressure on Democrats and the White House to take up their agenda.

As Boehner was addressing his Conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was on the Senate floor and on message about the withholding bill.

“This is just the latest example of a simple, bipartisan bill that struggling businesses are begging us to pass,” the Kentucky Republican said.

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