House Speaker Criticizes McCain
McCain retorted: "The speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops. All we are called upon to do is to not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility."
At issue on the budget is a Senate-passed provision mandating that any tax or spending measure that increases the federal deficit be offset by spending cuts or tax increases. The mandate could be lifted only with 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate. After weeks of difficult negotiations, GOP negotiators signed off on a plan that would impose such restrictions for only one year, rather than the five years the Senate approved. But they carved out $27.5 billion worth of tax cuts that could be passed this year with a simple Senate majority.
That version squeaked though the House last night, 216 to 213, with nine Republicans and all Democrats voting against it. But to win Senate approval, GOP leaders will need to win over at least two of the four balking moderates, or possibly a conservative Democrat. Each of the targets of Republican wooing roundly rejected the deal yesterday.
"The budget that is expected to be brought before the U.S. Senate this week does not meet my concerns. Therefore, I plan to vote against it," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
David DiMartino, a spokesman for conservative Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), said leaders seeking his vote "are wasting their time."
House GOP leaders made no attempt to hide their frustration or their unwillingness to compromise further. Already bottled up in the Senate are Bush's energy package and plans for medical-liability and class-action lawsuit reform.
"For a long time the House of Representatives tried to bow and scrape and do everything it could to get along with the Senate," Hastert told reporters, adding that the House would not let the moderates "nail us down so we couldn't react to the economy" by making it harder to cut taxes.
DeLay said, "I can't believe that those three or four senators are going to bring down one of the best budgets we've ever seen over an issue that makes it difficult for Republicans to get tax relief."
Staff writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company