In Defeat for Tea Party, House Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill
WASHINGTON — The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday, 359 to 67, to approve a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the current fiscal year, shrugging off the angry threats of Tea Party activists and conservative groups whose power has ebbed as Congress has moved toward fiscal cooperation.
The legislation, 1,582 pages in length and unveiled only two nights ago, embodies precisely what many House Republicans have railed against since the Tea Party movement began, a huge bill dropped in the cover of darkness and voted on before lawmakers could possibly have read it.
The conservative political action committee Club for Growth denounced it and said a vote for it would hurt any lawmaker’s conservative scorecard. Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, castigated it as a profligate budget buster that is returning Washington to its free-spending ways.
“Has Congress learned nothing from the Obamacare disaster?” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. “We need members in the House and the Senate who are willing to keep their campaign promises, stand up for the people and protect Americans from Washington’s tax, borrow, spend and spend and spend mentality.”
The response in the Republican-led House was a collective shrug, with 166 Republicans voting for it and 64 opposing it. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is expected to pass it easily this week.
“If I started voting how they want me to, versus what I think is right, then they’ve already won,” said Representative Mike Simpson, Republican of Idaho, who is dealing with one of the best-financed Tea Party challenges of this campaign year. “Eh, it is what it is.”
The budget process that is culminating in the passage of the spending bill has ushered in a remarkable marginalization of the Republican far right. After a politically disastrous 16-day government shutdown last fall, the House voted 285 to 144 to reopen the government on Oct. 16. Only 87 Republicans voted yes; 144 voted no.
The legislation that reopened the government set the parameters for a broad budget deal that was again denounced by conservatives. But in December, that deal passed the House 332 to 94, with 169 Republicans backing it. That budget blueprint yielded more than 1,500 pages of fine print.
For the most ardent conservatives, the spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday represented a tangible backslide from fiscal discipline, a $45 billion increase in spending compared with where the budget would have been had House Republicans let another round of automatic spending cuts take effect.
Yet it passed the House with an even greater margin — and even more Republican votes.
“Our people learned a lot of tough lessons in the last year, and I think you’re seeing the tough lessons applied,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma.
In the process, Speaker John A. Boehner has reasserted control over his fractious Republican conference, leaving his far-right flank angry and isolated. The speaker’s public and private denunciations of the outside conservative groups have created conditions in which members must choose sides, and they have.
“The Tea Party groups and conservative movement in America gave the speaker his speakership, and I think it’s time for us to be grateful for what these outside groups have done,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho, who has remained in the Tea Party camp.
But most have aligned with the speaker in what Republican leaders say is a growing realization that incremental moves toward governance are better than the purist, ideological stands demanded by the right.
“We can push large ideas out of the House and say, ‘This is what we feel is the right thing to do,’ but if we’re going to actually move things, they’re going to have to be smaller things,” said Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma, a member of the Republican leadership.
All of those requests — about half the to-do list, in all — were carried out, and yet Heritage Action demanded a “no” vote.
That ideological purity has lost its power.
“They’re going to have their various metrics,” said Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “What we need to be able to do is go home and explain what’s inside the bills and why they matter.”
Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, said Wednesday that his group’s influence had not waned, but that the budget process had highlighted that “we’ve got work to do.”
“We’d love to put ourselves out of business,” he said, “but until you get a majority of economic conservatives, you’ve got to keep fighting.”
That will not sit well with Republicans now more willing to speak out against such groups.
“I hope they spend some time trying to win the United States Senate and working with us when we have a nominee to win the presidency,” Mr. Cole said. “But I don’t think condemning Republicans who are making amazing progress in a challenging environment is the appropriate thing to do.”
Leave A Comment