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House passes bill to cut $60 billion in spending

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to cut $60-billion-plus from hundreds of federal programs early Saturday.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to cut $60-billion-plus from hundreds of federal programs early Saturday, in what House Speaker John Boehner described as "one of the largest spending cuts in American history."

The 235-189 vote broke largely along party lines, and marked the most significant victory to date for the freshman Republicans elected last year on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government.

All 235 votes in favor were by Republicans, but three GOP members voted with 186 Democrats against the bill.

The $1.2 trillion measure provides money to keep the government running when existing funding expires on March 4.

The measure faces a rough ride in the Senate, where majority Democrats favor higher spending levels and are poised to defend President Barack Obama's health care bill, environmental policies and new efforts to overhaul regulation of the financial services industry.

The bill would also help coal companies, oil refiners and farmers escape new environmental regulations.

Boehner said that "for the first time in many years, the People's House was allowed to work its will."

"The result was one of the largest spending cuts in American history," he said, according to NBC News.

"For the good of our economy and our democracy, I call on Senate Majority Leader (Harry) Reid to allow it to come to an immediate vote. Cutting federal spending is critical to reducing economic uncertainty, encouraging private-sector investment, and creating a better environment for job creation in our country," he added.

'Washington's spending binge'Boehner said the party would "not stop here" in its efforts to reduce spending, "not when we're broke and Washington's spending binge is making it harder to create jobs."

He thanked those involved in making "this momentous debate possible," commending "the fresmen class in particular."

"As the chamber of our government closest to the people, the House works best when it is allowed to work its will," he said.

In a statement seen by NBC News, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the bill would put people out of work and claimed the Republicans reaction to that was "so be it."

"Democrats have a different message: 'Show us the jobs,'" she said. "Congressional Republicans have spent the last six weeks ignoring jobs and refusing to offer a plan to grow our economy."

"Today, they have made matters worse — passing a spending bill that destroys jobs, weakens the middle class, hurts schools and young adults, eliminates assistance to homeless veterans, and diminishes critical investments in our future," she said.

Saying "the American people deserve better," Pelosi said she was "hopeful" that Republican leaders would agree to a short-term extension of a freeze on current spending levels "as we work to pass a bill the President can sign into law for the remainder of 2011."

Democratic leaders introduced legislation on Friday to extend funding at existing levels until March 31 "to prevent any interruption in vital government services," amid talk of a government shutdown.

The three Republicans who voted against the continuing resolution's passage were: Rep. Jeff Flake, Rep. Walter Jones and Rep. John Campbell, NBC News reported.

Flake and Campbell are members of the Republican Study Committee, the conservative caucus of the Republican party, which includes many Tea Party-aligned freshmen.

They were cosponsors of an amendment to cut another $22 billion on top of the $60 billion.

However, several Republican members spoke against this amendment saying the additional cuts were irresponsible and not strategic, and it was defeated Friday.

"Rather than make careful decisions on specific program the amendment (to cut another $22 billion) 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."

Shutdown accusations fly
Republicans and Democrats have already accused each other of favoring a shutdown, and the two sides are maneuvering for political advantage in anticipation of talks on a short-term extension that will be needed.

The Democratic leadership's attempt to extend funding until March 31 brought a quick retort from Boehner.

"The only people in this town rooting for a government shutdown are Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid," he said Friday to reporters a few feet away from a crowded House floor.

"There's not one Republican talking about a government shutdown. Our goal is to cut spending," he added.

Also on Friday, the House voted to shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators, strengthening the pro-business emphasis of the spending bill.

In a victory for social conservatives, the House voted 240-185 to block federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who proposed the move, said, "It is morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortion."

Debate over the abortion issue grew intense Thursday night, when Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., read a description of a graphic second-trimester abortion procedure on the House floor.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., responded with an emotional speech disclosing having undergone an abortion as her 17-week pregnancy was failing.

"For you to stand on this floor and to suggest as you have that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous," she said.