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April 17, 2014

Rogers Decries Decision to Pull Transportation Spending Bill From Floor (Updated)

Updated 7:19 p.m. | Top Republican appropriators in the House cried foul Wednesday after GOP leaders decided to yank a transportation spending bill from the floor schedule.

Leaders cited scheduling concerns, but Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. — as well as other GOP members of the committee and Democrats — said that Republicans once again didn’t have the votes for passage.

“I am extremely disappointed with the decision to pull the bill from the House calendar today,” Rogers said in a statement. “The prospects for passing this bill in September are bleak at best, given the vote count on passage that was apparent this afternoon.”

 “Chairman Rogers is totally off-base here — it’s categorically untrue,” a GOP leadership aide fired back.
Rogers stopped short of explicitly implicating his party’s leaders for postponing complete consideration of the fiscal 2014 Transportation-HUD appropriations measure until after the five-week August recess. But his frustration was apparent, given the House GOP’s repeated problems in passing spending legislation at sequester-level caps that Democrats say are too low and Republicans say aren’t low enough.

“The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development funding bill that was pulled from floor consideration today was the first major attempt by the House to consider and pass an Appropriations bill that funds domestic programs under the austere level delineated under the Budget Control Act and the House budget resolution,” Rogers said. “The bill today reflected the best possible effort, under an open process, to fund programs important to the American people.”

“With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted just three months ago,” he continued. “Thus, I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.”

Debate on the bill was expected by the end of this week, with the House working late into the night on Tuesday to make progress on the countless amendments being offered under the legislation’s open rule.

With more amendments expected to be piled on, Rory Cooper, a spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., insisted it was a scheduling issue only — nothing more.

This week has gotten busier than expected with the number of amendments being offered and limited time remaining for a full debate so we’re going to finish the bill when we return,” said Cooper, whose boss controls the floor schedule.

Several aides for Democrats — both in senior ranks and in the rank and file — told CQ Roll Call they were stunned that Republicans were attempting to spin the decision to postpone consideration of the measure as one driven by timing.

One staffer for a senior Democrat said grumblings were that the Republicans only had 180 votes on their side for the measure — a far cry from the necessary 218.

Mike Long, spokesman for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., rebuffed speculation that the GOP was short of votes.

“We’ve passed four appropriations bills already this year with Republican votes. We’re confident if there was more time this week, we’d make this our fifth,” Long said.

Update 7:19 p.m.

Neither Rogers nor other Republican appropriators with jurisdiction over the bill would venture to guess why GOP leadership aides were insisting the issue had only to do with scheduling, not with the vote count.

“Well, that’s their assessment,” Rogers said of the party talking point during votes Wednesday afternoon.

Many Republicans who sit on the Transportation-HUD Subcommittee said that leadership’s decision to pull the bill was some combination of the two: votes and timing.

“They have, apparently, at least three bills they have to do rules on, they were worried about time frame, availability, for one thing, and I’m not sure the votes were all there to do it anyway, it was sketchy, so …,” subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham, R-Iowa, told reporters.

Subcommittee member Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said the reason for the bill’s perhaps indefinite postponement was “pretty obvious: the votes weren’t there to pass it.” He also conceded that a tight schedule ahead of the August recess might have had some bearing on a final decision at the leadership ranks, as well.

Fellow panel member Tom Cole, R-Okla., said he was “frustrated” by the decision, especially because among Republican appropriators, at one point, every vote was accounted for.

“Our committee was charged to produce a bill according to the Ryan budget and really according, to be fair, to the Budget Control Act. We produced it, and [the Appropriations Committee] got all of our votes for it, so where the problem is beyond that, I don’t know,” he said.

Cole also decried the lack of cohesion in the Republican Conference.

“I think [Rogers] is trying to make the point where, look, you vote for a budget, you produce a bill, you need to vote for it,” he said. “If this were a football, we’ve taken this to the Red Zone. The rest of the team needs to step up and push it across the line, because the bill reflects what they told us to do.

“It’s a tough vote for a lot of people, and you can’t expect Democrats to vote for that bill,” Cole continued. “[Republicans] have a responsibility to pass an appropriations bill that actually implements the budget we enacted.”

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