With a rush of last-minute votes on the bill to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year, House Democrats provided the votes to save a spending bill that was forged by Republican House speaker John Boehner, President Obama, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late Friday to avert government shutdown.
A total of 59 Republicans defected on the vote, reflecting a continuing fissure between Boehner and the right flank of his party. The last time Boehner faced large scale dissent from his own side, during debate over a stopgap spending bill, 54 Republicans broke ranks.
Revelations about the fine print of the spending deal released at 2:00 AM Tuesday, combined with a score from the Congressional Budget Office which showed the legislation would not reduce the federal deficit, drove the defections by conservatives anxious to cut spending further, congressional sources say. Among members of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative House caucus within the GOP, at least 120 voted for the bill.
Counteracting those forces was the fear Republicans, if they torpedoed the deal without a safety net to stop government shutdown, would face total blame for the fallout.
The omnibus continuing resolution spending bill cut around $40 billion in spending authority compared to when Republicans took control of the House. But the total spending cuts figure involved numerous budget “tricks” including rescinding leftover money that would not have been spent otherwise.
The vote on the House floor came down to the wire. With almost all the Republicans having voted, the bill still lacked the 218 votes necessary for passage.
In a dramatic flourish, scores of Democrats voted “yes” en masse, providing the bill the required votes for passage.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who earlier suggested that enough Democrats would vote for the plan to let it pass, voted against the measure.
Speaking to reporters hours before the vote, Boehner conceded that the bill was “not perfect” but said there would be more cuts in the next battle over the federal budget.
“This bill is not perfect,” Boehner said. “It’s no cause for celebration. This is just one step.”
The bill funds the government through Sept. 30.