Spending Bill Deal Falls Apart

Posted July 8, 2009 at 6:26pm

House Republicans on Wednesday accused Democrats of unfairly limiting the number of amendments on appropriations bills, but Democrats contended the restrictions are necessary because GOP leaders would not commit to a time limit on debate for the bills.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have met for weeks to try to solve the partisan dispute over appropriations bills.

According to a Democratic aide, Hoyer told Cantor on Wednesday that he would propose to Democratic leadership an open rule — no limits on amendments — for the Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration appropriations bill if Cantor could guarantee that the debate would end in a reasonable time frame. Democrats generally agreed to such time limits when they were in the minority, the aide pointed out.

Cantor told Hoyer he would try, the Democratic aide said.

But Democratic leaders rejected the proposal because Cantor could not guarantee that Republicans would stick to time limits, the aide said.

Cantor’s office said only that negotiations were ongoing.

A GOP aide familiar with the negotiations said Cantor had agreed to wrap up debate on the bill by 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were in charge of compromise negotiations and had not yet been able to come to an understanding.

“The negotiations on these take place between Mr. Boehner and Mrs. Pelosi, and they have tried numerous times,— Slaughter said. “The agriculture bill two years ago took eight hours before we got to page two. There’s not enough time in a year for us to get these done with the number of amendments that are coming to the Rules Committee.—

Asked whether the practice of limiting amendments would continue for the remaining bills, Slaughter said, “I have no idea. I take it day by day.—

Rules ranking member David Dreier (R-Calif.) rejected the idea that the amount of time spent on appropriations bills would prohibit an open rule.

“I can remember spending days and days and days on an appropriations bill,— Dreier said.

“The real problem that I have is, why not try an open rule? Why not say, If these Republicans end up being real jerks, then there’s always the option to go back to the Rules Committee, which is what we did in 1997?’— Dreier said.

In the 111th Congress, all five spending bills that have come to the floor so far have had restricted rules.

Dreier said this set a record for the number of restricted appropriations bills

“Never before in the history of the republic have we seen this kind of lockdown of the appropriations process,— Dreier said. “It’s not a Republican issue — Democrats can’t offer amendments.—

Dreier said several Democrats approached him and complained about the closed process, though he did not name them.

Six Democrats voted Wednesday to allow Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) to offer a resolution calling for the House to have regular order on appropriation bills. The House voted to table the Simpson resolution.

“Everyone here on both sides of the aisle knows in their hearts this is what we should do,— Simpson said, adding that the process should not be rushed because of the upcoming August recess. “I’m willing to stay and work. I’m willing to stay on weekends and work if that’s what’s necessary get our work done, and you should be, too,— Simpson said on the House floor.

“We want to keep working with Republicans on the appropriations process, but we have to get the American people’s work done,— Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said.