The Senate was out Friday, but that didn’t stop House Republicans from trying to ratchet up political pressure on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). Shortly before adjourning for the weekend, they (barely) passed the Government Shutdown Prevention Act — a largely symbolic measure unlikely to even be considered in the Senate. The final vote was 220 to 202, with 15 Republicans voting no.
The bill formally criticizing the Senate for failing to pass a spending bill, and stipulates that if the Senate does not pass a long-term resolution by April 6, the measure passed by the House in February, H.R. 1, and it’s $61 billion in spending cuts, would be law. Also, the bill would prevent members of congress and the president from receiving their salaries in the event of a government shutdown.
Democrats, and even some Republicans, complained that the bill was unconstitutional. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) decried it as “contemptible” for “trying to shift the blame for passing a bill that couldn’t pass [in the Senate].” Few members expressed much enthusiasm for it. “I hate the fact that we are doing this bill,” Rep. David Dreier (R., Calif.) said on the House floor, “But I like even less the prospect of a government shutdown.”
Earlier in the day, a group of GOP freshman held a press conference on the Senate steps — for the third day in a row — to highlight the Senate’s failure to pass a spending bill some 41 days after the House passed theirs. Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) urged Harry Reid to “stop dithering with the future of this country” and pass a bill.
“There is a process and they’re not abiding by it,” said Rep. Bill Huizenga (R., Mich.). “It’s ridiculous.” Others accused Senate Democrats of “cheering for a government shutdown.”
Interestingly though, the most heated rhetoric came from one of the few non-freshman members present at the conference. Rep. Paul Broun (R., Ga.), a three-term member of the Tea Caucus, accused Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama of hatching a “diabolical plan” to shutdown the government. “We’re seeing that come to fruition now,” he said. “They did that in order to [ensure] that they could all be reelected and put back in power to continue their socialistic vision of policy.”
“Anything less than $61 billion is an insult to the gravity of the problem,” he added. Broun was also the only one out of the dozen or so present who vowed to vote against anything less that $61 billion in cuts. The others mostly offered the classic political cop-out: ‘I decline to comment on a hypothetical situation.’
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) continued to hint that a compromise with Democrats was inevitable, and a Republican aide tells NRO that many freshman are starting to come around to the notion that it’s best to get this budget fight out of the way, even if it means accepting less the amount included in H.R 1 and letting go of a number of “policy riders” in order to move on to the much larger fight over Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget, which the House Budget chairman plans to release next week.