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Posted at 12:48 PM ET, 09/22/2011

Democrats push for ‘clean’ funding bill after House rejects GOP measure


(J. Scott Applewhite - AP)

One day after House Republicans were dealt a blow by the unexpected defeat of a stopgap funding resolution, Democratic leaders on Thursday continued to press for a bill that would fund the government at the level agreed to in last month’s debt-ceiling deal while also including additional emergency disaster relief monies.

According to a senior Democratic aide, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday morning that he has “made clear all along” that Democrats would back a funding measure that does not offset the additional disaster aid with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Hoyer made the remarks at a closed-door House Democratic caucus meeting that was also attended by White House adviser Stephanie Cutter.

Several Democratic aides who were not authorized to speak publicly about internal party deliberations also said Thursday morning that members would be “pushing hard” for a clean funding bill with no disaster relief offset.

“We’re holding firm on Republicans working with Democrats on a package our caucus can support that responsibly keeps government running and provides assistance to Americans recovering from recent natural disasters,” said one Democratic leadership aide.

The move further ups the pressure on House Republican leaders as they work to redraft the funding measure in order to secure enough support for it to pass the House. Time is short for the parties to come to a compromise: The resolution currently funding the government expires on Sept. 30, and both chambers are scheduled to be out of session next week.

At a Capitol news conference Thursday, House Speaker John M. Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to reassure the public that the government is in no danger of a shutdown.

Boehner offered no indication of how GOP leaders will amend the measure. But he calmly told reporters on Thursday that he knew the bill could fail when he brought it to the floor Wednesday and promised the issue will be resolved well before the end of the month. “There’s no threat of a government shutdown. Let’s just get this out,” Boehner said.

“I understood what the risk was yesterday,” he said. “But why not put the bill on the floor and let the members speak.”

It was unclear Thursday morning whether Republican leaders would rework the funding measure to include deeper cuts — in order to secure support from some of the four-dozen conservatives who balked at the measure — or to include additional disaster relief funding — a move that would garner support of Democrats.

A House Democratic aide said that the former option would represent “certainly one line in the sand Democrats aren’t going to cross — either in the Senate or the House.”

Republicans could also choose to keep the overall funding level the same but find a different offset than their original $1.5 trillion cut to the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, to which more than 100 Democrats expressed strong opposition in a letter this week to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Another vote on a funding resolution is possible Thursday, according to the daily floor schedule distributed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office. Members have been advised that weekend votes are also a possibility.

Democrats on Thursday were digging in their heels on preserving full funding for the ATVM program. Senate Democratic leaders circulated a letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposing cuts to the ATVM program, arguing that cuts to the initiative would negatively impact job creation.

“Again, while the Chamber understands the importance of reducing America’s unacceptable debt and believes that all programs must be on the table, the Chamber urges you to bear in mind the facts about the ATVM loan program, which promotes manufacturing in the U.S. and is an important component of America’s energy security,” read the letter from Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for Government Affairs.

More details from House Democratic leaders on the path forward on the funding resolution are likely to come at 2:30 p.m., when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her weekly news conference at the Capitol.

Two House Democrats who played key roles in Wednesday’s vote — Reps. Norm Dicks (Wash.) and Anna Eshoo (Calif.) — said Thursday that they were waiting to see what House Republicans offered before making any decisions on what they would or would not support.

Dicks, who last week had said he would back the funding resolution but announced he was a “no” vote Wednesday morning, said that he had changed his mind on the measure after reading the letter spearheaded by Eshoo and Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) expressing opposition to the ATVM program.

“I had basically said at the Rules Committee that I was prepared to support the (funding bill),” Dicks said in a phone interview Thursday. “Then, all of the sudden, there was a letter written with 100 names on it saying we’re taking money away from a job-creation program. So, I took a look at the program and realized that it was actually working ... and that this would create thousands and thousands of jobs. So I made it clear to the Republicans that I had a problem and that I might well vote no.”

While the coordinated effort among Democrats to vote “no” on Wednesday’s resolution was organized by House Democratic leaders, Dicks said that he was not pressured by his party’s leadership to vote one way or the other.

“I read the letters, and I felt the facts were compelling, and I changed my position,” he said. “Why would we have debates if we didn’t listen to them? Nobody ordered me to do anything; there was nobody yelling and screaming in my face. It was just, this was going to be a job killer.”

Eshoo said that she believed both the matter of offsetting disaster-relief funds and the choice to make the cuts from the ATVM program figured largely in Democrats’ decision to balk at Wednesday’s vote.

If there was any lesson to be learned for House Republican leaders Wednesday, she said, it was that they should be certain to have their own vote count in order before bringing a controversial measure to the floor.

“I’ve served in the majority, and I’ve served in the minority,” Eshoo said. “In the House, the majority controls all the mechanisms. So, you have a majority policy mechanism: you’d better be able to produce the votes. You just cant go willy-nilly to the floor and then say, ‘Well, oopsie.’ You have to be at least within striking distance. I don’t know what their whip operation is, but it certainly wasn’t operating well yesterday.”

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

By  |  12:48 PM ET, 09/22/2011

 
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