The war of words that broke out in the U.S. House of Representatives late Tuesday and spilled into Wednesday over one of the government’s annual spending bills shows the widening gulf between Democrats who control the chamber and minority Republicans.
Republicans accused Democrats of trying to shut down their efforts to save money on the $64.4 billion spending bill for the Commerce and Justice Departments and science agencies. They argued that in a time of mounting deficits it was unacceptable to spend 12 percent more for these programs than last year. Democrats accused Republican of trying to stall the bill by offering 100 or so amendments.
Republican Representative Mike Pence said it was “an outrageous abuse of the legislative process” for Democrats to cut off debate after 30 minutes during the first amendment. He insisted that it was not about the process but about “runaway federal spending.”
Democrats shot back that Republicans were making it harder to finish the annual spending bills and also complete healthcare and climate change legislation quickly. Republican demands for a recorded vote on even amendments they supported — taking additional time — also angered Democrats.
“We have to pass 12 major appropriations bills in six weeks and still leave enough time on the calendar to deal with healthcare, to deal with climate change, to deal with the military authorization bill and several other crucial issues,” said Democratic Representative David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
He said Republicans rebuffed Democratic attempts to reach a deal on handling amendments quickly. “We have tried every way we can to involve the minority,” he said. “We recognize a filibuster by amendment when we see it.”
When Pence was asked why seeking a recorded vote on an amendment that both sides supported wasn’t a stall tactic, he grinned and walked away from reporters.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Obey at a meeting earlier this year)