The House of Representatives is debating today for the fourth consecutive day an appropriations package funding the federal government from March 4 until Sept. 30, the end of Fiscal Year 2011. A final vote is expected late today before members head home for a one-week recess in observance of Presidents Day.
A spending showdown is looming the first week of March, when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill facing an immediate deadline to continue funding government operations.
Representatives began debate Tuesday on the bill (HR 1) to extend appropriations for the remainder of this fiscal year. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle lined up to offer 583 amendments to the measure.
The House had adopted seven amendments by roll-call vote as of Thursday evening, while 17 were rejected.
Once approved by the House, the $1.2 trillion appropriations bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. Senate Democratic leaders this week criticized the sweeping spending cuts that House Republicans want to make in domestic program funding. House leaders inserted $61 billion in domestic spending cuts in the legislation (from FY 2010 enacted levels). The House bill contains $100 billion less in spending than President Barack Obama had requested in his FY 2011 budget.
During a caucus meeting Tuesday, Senate Democrats voted to endorse Obama's recent call for a five-year freeze on federal discretionary spending. House Republicans say the freeze is not enough. They are proposing to cut many federal programs back to their Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations.
Obama this week urged Republicans to trim federal spending with a "scalpel" rather than a "machete." In a subsequent statement, the White House Office of Management and Budget said Obama would veto the spending bill if its spending cuts would jeopardize jobs and threaten the economic recovery.
As introduced last week, the House measure seeks to cut $1 billion from high-speed rail, $224 million from Amtrak, and $234 million from the Federal Aviation Administration's next-generation air-traffic-control initiative. (see Feb. 11 AASHTO Journal story)