Washington The Republican-controlled House voted to shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators on Friday, strengthening the pro-business emphasis of legislation that also would chop $61 billion from government spending.
But as a final vote neared on the sweeping measure, newly elected conservatives suffered a rare setback when a split among rank-and-file Republicans sank a move to cut an additional $22 billion.
“The American people have spoken. They demand that Washington stop its out-of-control spending now, not some time in the future,” declared Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., one of the 87 newly elected Republicans who have moved aggressively to attack federal deficits and reduce government’s reach.
But for other Republicans, the extra $22 billion was a step too far.
“Rather than make careful decisions on specific programs, the amendment hits everything indiscriminately in a heavy-handed way,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and principal author of the broader measure. “We were elected to make choices, not run on automatic pilot.”
At the end of a week of sessions stretching well past midnight, the House moved toward a final vote on the $1.2 trillion bill that is needed to keep the government in operation when existing funding authority expires on March 4.
The measure, packed with cuts to hundreds of federal programs and terminations of others, faces a veto threat from President Barack Obama and implacable opposition from majority Democrats in the Senate.
As a result, it is unclear how much of it will ever become law.
At the same time, it has spawned an intensifying political struggle over spending, with current funding for federal agencies due to expire in two weeks.
Republicans and Democrats have already accused each other of favoring a government shutdown when funding expires, and the two sides are maneuvering for political advantage in anticipation of talks on a short-term extension that will be needed.