After weeks of legislative wrangling, appropriators proved to find a middle ground in a sharply divided chamber, as the House passed an omnibus appropriations bill on a bipartisan vote.
Today, 147 Republicans joined 149 Democrats to pass the $1 trillion bill. In total, 86 Republicans voted against it, as did 35 Democrats.
“After weeks of tough negotiations with our Senate counterparts — and several tenuous days this past week — we were able to complete a bipartisan, bicameral compromise,” Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a statement. “As with any compromise, this bill isn’t perfect, but it represents the kind of responsible governing that will help move our country forward.”
The vote marks the second time in as many spending bills that Democrats have put up more votes than Republicans, although fewer Republicans voted against this bill than against the November three-bill “minibus,” which 101 Republicans voted against.
Rep. Jack Kingston, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said GOP leaders and Appropriations members have been holding “come to Jesus meetings” to convince their party’s restive right flank that unity will bolster Speaker John Boehner’s leverage in negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Barack Obama.
“We’ve had a lot of prayer sessions since the Nov. 18 vote, I think that’s when it was, on the other three bills, trying to get our members to realize that the more votes that vote ‘no,’ the more we have to get Democrats on board and the weaker our leverage is on putting riders and amendments in the bill,” the Georgia Republican said.
“I think some Members have appreciated that. Some Members don’t believe that,” Kingston said, adding that “some of it is just a learning process.”
The work paid off on a vote on extending the payroll tax cut earlier this week, when only 13 Republicans voted against the package that included a provision fast-tracking a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project.
“The Speaker’s been preaching that all year. That you have to manage your disappointments,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said. “That message ... actually paid off this week on the payroll tax.”
And when Reid held up the conference report on the “megabus,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy was able to secure more than 218 Republican “yes” votes on a stand-alone version of the extenders bill, strengthening the GOP’s hand.
Republican Members and aides said the context of that vote, in which House Republicans would be standing up against Democratic opponents in the Senate and White House, made garnering that support much easier.
After the vote, Members started heading home, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying Monday would be the earliest they would be called back to vote on an extenders package sent back from the Senate.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.