House anger at the Senate reaches a new level

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2011. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

John Boehner
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Updated 4:10 p.m. ET

Even when they are controlled by the same party, the House and Senate often treat the other as the enemy. House members especially express constant frustration at the Senate, where bills they pass tend to disappear or take months to wind their way through the parliamentary morass.

The anger is even more pronounced now that the House is controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) erupted at a news conference the other day that the Senate should just "pass the damn thing" referring to the House bill to fund the government for the rest of the year.

But Republicans are taking things to a new level today when they passed a measure in the House this afternoon that basically says we don't need the Senate anymore.

The bill says that if the Senate doesn't pass the House version of the spending bill by next Friday, the deadline for a government shutdown, it will be considered as "deemed passed" and will become law. It's a magic wand kind of thing. And it would eliminate the need for all these messy negotiations between the House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House over how much to spend and where to spend it. Republicans could just declare themselves the winners and walk away.

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When this bill was introduced I looked carefully through my pocket copy of the constitution for the part that says if the House is "really, really mad" they can just ignore the Senate and the president and make laws by themselves. I couldn't find it.

Republican leaders say they know they can't make a law without the Senate but explain they are just trying to give the Senate a way out so they don't have to bother with all that debate and legislating and can just let the House "deem" things.

The Senate is not likely to see it that way.

The gimmicky vote is part of a long process of "pre-blame" that has been going on with Democrats and Republicans issuing daily missives to make clear that if their negotiations fail and the government shuts down it will certainly be the other's fault.

Beneath all this rhetoric is the fact that there are real and important differences between the two parties on spending that must be compromised to keep the government open.

They need to agree on how much spending to cut and that is actually the easy part and there are indications that may already be done. You start with two numbers and negotiate somewhere in the middle.

The hard part is dealing with social issues and political hot potatoes that are in the bill the House Republicans passed. They want to focus their cuts in places they know Democrats want to spend more - education, research and clean energy. They aren't touching defense and reject raising more revenue by taking away special tax breaks for oil companies.

And they want to use the bill to accomplish some other political goals that have nothing to do with spending - preventing the EPA from regulating greenhouse gasses or stopping mountaintop coal mining, ending support of Planned Parenthood clinics and public broadcasting and stopping implementation of the health reform law. There are even provisions firing specific people at the White House and one at the FCC they don't like.

Democrats strongly oppose all of these so-called "riders."

Finding a compromise on these in a week will be difficult. It would be so much easier if one side could just deem the other side away and make it so.

  • Bob Fuss

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