86 House Republicans Vote Against $1 Trillion-Plus Megabus Bill

December 19, 2011 - 7:08 PM

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Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) voted against the $1.043 trillion spending bill. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Eighty-six conservative House Republicans broke ranks and opposed the $1.043 trillion 2012 megabus appropriations bill on Friday, forcing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to rely on Democratic support to pass the measure.

The bill passed 296-121 with 147 Republicans and 149 Democrats supporting the measure, which would fund the majority of the federal government through September 2012, the end of that fiscal year.

Eighty-six conservative Republicans voted against the bill mostly because it either spent too much money or was too large and complicated to have been debated properly.

Representative Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said the bill simply spent too much money for him to support it. Flake added that the 1,200-page bill simply could not be thoroughly examined in the three days between its introduction and the House vote.

“Aside from spending levels being simply too high, this is a 1,200-page bill that we’re voting on only a few hours after it was finalized,” he said in a statement on Friday. “We’ll be discovering for months to come what’s actually in it. This is unacceptable. We promised to do better.”

Flaske also said: “Whenever we come to an impasse, our leadership says, we can’t shut the government down. We haven’t had the leverage in any negotiation we’ve gone into. That’s what’s frustrating to me.”

Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said he opposed the bill because it represented “business as usual in Washington,” arguing that passing enormous spending bills was not the way the public wanted its money spent.

“While I am grateful that Congress found a way to fund our national defense and other vital government programs before the end of the fiscal year,” said Pence, “it is unfortunate that the process resulted in one more 1,000 page bill spending nearly $1 trillion.”

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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., center, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., all of whom supported the $1.043 trillion megabus bill.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“The American people deserve better,” he said. “The American people want us to change the way we spend the people's money. While I support many of the important programs in this legislation, I do not support business as usual in Washington, D.C.”

The bill provided for $915 billion in discretionary spending and $126 billion in military funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2012 – maintaining the cap of $1.043 trillion laid out in the debt ceiling deal worked out between Boehner and President Barack Obama in August.

The bill cut $6 billion from 2011 non-defense discretionary spending levels for a total cut of $7 billion when added to the so-called minibus bill passed in November.

The megabus was part of a three-bill package for fiscal year 2012 that included a second bill providing $8.1 billion in disaster relief funding and a third bill that offset the disaster money with a 1.83 percent cut to non-security spending. Because the offsets were in a separate bill, however, the Democrat-controlled Senate shut it down.

The House passed the disaster funding 351-67, with many of the same conservatives who opposed the megabus opposing disaster relief as well. The offsets for the disaster relief passed 255-165, with no Republican opposition.

The Senate, however, did not pass the offset bill, meaning that the $8.1 billion in disaster funding will be added to this year’s spending total.

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Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) (AP Photo)

The bill still represents a spending cut from last year’s discretionary spending levels, reducing them to $1.181 trillion from the $1.211 trillion spent last year, a reduction of $30 billion.

The megabus bill had been stuck in a House-Senate conference committee since Dec. 8 and was not introduced in the House until Dec. 14. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said that the bill represented a real cut in federal spending.

“After weeks of tough negotiations with our Senate counterparts – and several tenuous days this past week – we were able to complete a bipartisan, bicameral compromise that rolls back federal budgets, makes smart investments in programs people rely on, and implements policy changes that will bolster American business and our economy,” Rogers said in a statement.

“As with any compromise, this bill isn’t perfect, but it represents the kind of responsible governing that will help move our country forward,” said Rogers.