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House Watching for 'Poison Pills' as Senate Turns to Continuing Resolution

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Inhofe talks with Lee, center, and Cruz in the Senate Radio and TV Gallery shortly before a vote to delay funding for the implementation of the health care overhaul.

Republicans and Democrats in the House expect to support the Senate’s version of a fiscal 2013 continuing resolution, provided that the spending package doesn’t arrive weighed down with contentious new provisions.

“I perceive this vote as a vote to keep government running, given the bipartisan effort we’ll need to get that done,” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said Wednesday. “So my inclination will be to support it if it is not in worse shape than it was reported out of the committee.”

Democratic support in the House could be crucial to clearing a bill (HR 933) the House approved last week but that has grown in scope and has become targeted as a vehicle for special provisions tied to spending since it hit the Senate floor this week.

“We’re watching the amendment process, hoping we don’t get some poison pill,” said House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. The Senate bill may clear the House “if the bill comes back substantially as it is,” he said.

Needed to avert a government shutdown after the current stopgap funding bill expires March 27, the continuing resolution got off to a difficult start in the Senate this week, when Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona imposed a hold on what they said was a measure laden with wasteful spending.

That roadblock evaporated Wednesday, sending the Senate into a series of votes on contentious issues aimed at reshaping policy, scaling back targeted spending programs and adding new requirements, limitations and directions through the appropriations process.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, began the voting with a move to delay funding for the implementation of the 2010 health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), an amendment that fell on a strict party-line vote in what Democrats said was the 34th fruitless GOP vote to undo the law.

“We cannot in good conscience send millions of immigrant Americans into a dangerously dysfunctional health care system run by unaccountable if well-intentioned bureaucrats,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said in supporting Cruz. “We will not sacrifice millions of families to prove a political point. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake. The American people are not pawns in Washington’s partisan political game.”

The Senate version of the CR, introduced jointly by Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and ranking member Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, takes a broader reach than the House bill by including three spending bills — Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Homeland Security — along with the Defense and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs measures the House included.

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