WASHINGTON -- After an embarrassing failed vote on Wednesday, House Republican leaders have settled on plan B for passing a resolution to keep the government funded: tack on more spending cuts while taking a political shot at the president.
Senior House Republican aides said GOP leaders are adding a $100 million offset into the $1.043 trillion continuing resolution and bringing it to a vote on Thursday night. The resolution would keep the government funded from Oct. 1 through Nov. 18. Congress has to pass some kind of government funding bill by Sept. 30 to avert a shutdown.
A $100 million cut in a $1 trillion package is hardly noteworthy. But the kicker is where Republicans want to cut it from: a government program that provided a $535 million loan to Solyndra, the solar energy company once hailed by the Obama administration as a model green company, but now under an FBI investigation after filing for bankruptcy last week. Republican leaders chose $100 million for their offset because it matches the amount of losses to the government from the Solyndra loan.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is hoping the move will sway at least some of the 48 Republicans who opposed the resolution when it came to a vote on Wednesday. But many of them voted against the bill because they wanted more cuts in it, and $100 million is likely not what they were expecting as a consolation. Boehner needs at least 23 defectors to support the bill this time for it to pass.
A senior Democratic aide speculated the political move by Republican leaders wouldn't lead to any new GOP support.
"Same vote as yesterday," predicted the aide.
The strategy to attach the offset to the bill is a major snub to Democrats, nearly all of whom opposed the resolution on Wednesday because of another offset: $1.5 billion in emergency disaster aid paid for with cuts to a clean car loan program.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday reiterated that Democrats will remain opposed to any resolution that includes offsets for disaster relief. Democrats are unhappy both at the prospect of paying for emergency aid, which is not usually paid for, and at the idea of gutting the clean car fund.
“We should not go down a different path now than we have done on natural disaster assistance,” Pelosi told reporters. “That’s why we fought so hard against what the Republicans put forth.”
Instead, she said, the “reasonable” way forward would be for Republican leaders to strip out offsets, keep the total disaster aid level at $3.65 billion and call it a day with the Senate. The upper chamber has already passed a standalone $6.9 billion disaster aid bill without offsets; Pelosi suggested the Senate would be amenable to the House level of aid if it didn’t contain offsets.
“It would be my hope that there’d be some split the difference,” said the California Democrat. “The Republicans would come out and say, ‘We’re not going to go as high as you wanted … to the Senate level, but we’ll go to $3.6 billion and we will have no offset.’ That, I think, would be a reasonable place to be.”
Earlier Thursday, before Republican leaders had settled on their strategy, conservatives who voted “no” on Wednesday said their support still hinged on GOP leaders making more cuts.
"They've got to make some changes," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who led a push last week for putting further cuts to the bill.
Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said he was working his way toward a "yes" vote.
"I could get there probably with some minor tweaks," he said. "The message is again this is something that is necessary to make sure we are taking care of people as they are hitting some of these disasters, but at the same time we’ve got to put in fiscal discipline."
Obama has stayed out of the fight for now. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney signaled Thursday that administration officials were happy to see the House GOP bill go down on Wednesday.
“We were pleased to see the House reject attempts to put politics ahead of attempts to help those who have been so severely affected by the numerous severe disasters that have upset the country,” Carney said aboard Air Force One, according to pool reports. “We look forward to Congress coming together to ensure that the needs of those affected by disasters are taken care of.”
The House is expected to debate and vote on the resolution late Thursday night. If it passes, the Senate is not expected to take it up until Friday.