“Sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) wrote with unusual anger and bluntness. “The House, Senate and White House must come together as soon as possible on a comprehensive compromise that repeals sequestration, takes the nation off this lurching path from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, reduces our deficits and debt, and . . . fund[s] the government in a responsible — and attainable — way.”
The development suggests that Republican support is eroding rapidly for the sequester, weakening the hand of House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) as Republicans brace for another big fight with President Obama over taxes, spending and the federal debt limit later this year.
Across the Capitol, Senate Republicans were on the verge of killing a more generous Democratic version of the transportation measure that proposes to cancel the sequester entirely. Without an agreement on how to fund federal agencies in 2014, the nation faces the risk of a government shutdown at the end of September.
The collapse of the transportation bill, meanwhile, diverted attention from the primary goal House GOP leaders hoped to accomplish before heading home for five weeks: embarrassing the Obama administration and scoring political points. Eager to call fresh attention to the troubled Internal Revenue Service and lingering doubts about Obama’s health-care law, Republican leaders dubbed this “Stop Government Abuse Week” and had scheduled votes on a collection of partisan measures intended to curb the power of government.
The theme had been in the works for more than a month, and GOP aides privately admitted that House leaders rushed consideration of a truncated farm bill in early July to make space on the calendar. Several of the measures passed the GOP-controlled House in previous years, but have been ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), who sponsored legislation that would limit non-military government travel and require detailed reports on conference spending, said it doesn’t matter when the measures make it to Obama’s desk.
“The whole purpose of these votes, in my opinion, is to show that when we see government abuses, we try to do something about them,” he said. “Even if we can’t get the Senate to act, and even if the president won’t sign them, we have told the American people that the House of Representatives stands for good, responsible, transparent government.”