This story was updated at 4:30 p.m.
The House today sliced $15 million in funding for the Presidio Trust, the government-chartered corporation that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) helped create to run her district's large national park, but defeated a bid for $447 million in Amtrak rail cuts during debate on its short-term government spending bill.
The amendment from freshman Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Tom Graves (R-Ga.) that struck Presidio aid from the House's continuing resolution (CR) cleared on a 239-186 vote, while Rep. Pete Sessions' (R-Texas) proposal to trim capital and debt service aid to Amtrak by more than half failed, 176-250.
As House Republican leaders push for final votes by the end of today on their CR, which keeps the government funded until the new fiscal year starts in October, their dogged pursuit of spending cuts beyond the 2010 levels now in place continued to raise the stakes for looming negotiations between the two chambers.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters he hopes the Senate would move on the lower chamber's CR after its $60 billion in cuts are sent across the Capitol. But that outcome is unlikely, given the fire trained by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his leadership team on the House budget cuts -- and in the meantime, Boehner closed the door to "any kind of short-term CR at current levels."
"When we say we're going to cut spending, read my lips: We're going to cut spending," Boehner said. The need for a bridge CR to allow more time for bicameral talks on federal spending, and the clash that could set up with conservatives, was raised yesterday by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
"What it theoretically could come down to," Whitfield said, is "who blinks first" in the partisan jockeying over a government shutdown (E&ENews PM, Feb. 16).
An anticipated House floor fight over language in the CR pre-empting U.S. EPA's ability to implement its greenhouse gas emissions rules had faded away by this morning, with Democrats declining to request a vote on their amendments striking the provision. Still, the issue remained front and center for many.
The Presidio amendment strikes money for the public-private trust that administers San Francisco's national park of the same name.
Even Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources subpanel on national parks, acknowledged he was "mixed" about zeroing out the project, given the Presidio's potential to serve as a model for self-funded parkland.
"[T]hey're on the road to that," Bishop said of the Presidio's goal of financial independence from federal aid. "They're not there yet. ... It's probably the only piece of property we have in the [National Park Service] that could be self-supporting."
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Appropriations subpanel with jurisdiction over the Interior Department, slammed the Republican freshmen's amendment as "mean-spirited" and "possibly aimed at the speaker," a reference to former Speaker Pelosi.
"The fact is this is a program that is working very well," Moran said of the Presidio Trust, "and if we were to cut it off now ... we would be breaking a contractual agreement we made with those folks. We should be applauding them for making it work."
House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) was less conflicted about his yes vote than Bishop: "We're going to have to make some real tough decisions, and these are incremental type of cuts," he said.
Pelosi vowed to work alongside California Sens. Barbara Boxer (D) and Dianne Feinstein (D) to restore funding for her local park to the CR while singling out Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the Appropriatons subpanel in charge of national parks, for voting to keep the money intact.
"From its creation, we intended the Presidio to eventually become financially self-sustaining; every year, the federal investment required for the Presidio decreases," Pelosi said in a statement. "Instead, today's misguided Republican action would result in higher future obligations by the federal government."
Though the federally chartered corporation that runs Amtrak's intercity rail service managed to avoid Sessions' proposed cut today, the House CR already eliminates money for the Obama administration's high-speed rail program and seeks to rescind existing bullet-train awards to states.
Meanwhile, another top Pelosi priority was cut by Republicans in the wee hours of this morning, as an amendment from Whitfield to cut $1.5 million from the former speaker's Green the Capitol program passed by voice vote (see related story).
The House has completed work on all amendments to the CR having to do with shifts in funding, and the only amendments that will receive a vote between now and the final vote later tonight will be so-called "limiting amendments," which bar an agency from using any appropriated funds for certain programs.
This means the House will likely still vote on an amendment by three Texas Republicans that would bar U.S. EPA from using any of the agency's funds for the regulation of greenhouse gases.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) says he, too, still hopes for a vote on his amendment, which would allow EPA to use funds to regulate heat-trapping emissions if it concludes that they endanger human health.
His amendment would qualify as a limiting amendment, but time constraints mean that not all of the 200 or more amendments that are still pending will receive a vote. Leaders are expected to hammer out a unanimous consent agreement later today that would limit the pool to 20 or 30 votes.
"That means the majority of them aren't going to be voted on, but hopefully, mine will be," Polis said.
Polis said he had not discussed his amendment with Moran or Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), both of whom have argued against offering amendments to the CR dealing with greenhouse gases.
"Polis' amendment? We're not going to do that," said Moran, whose subcommittee is responsible for EPA appropriations.
"If we're going to take on this issue in the House, its got to be the right timing, the right language, and its got to be the right vehicle," he said. "This is not the right vehicle."
Moran said that a Democratic alternative to the CR, which will be offered immediately before the final vote, will likely not include language on greenhouse gases.
"Sometimes there are other ways to skin a cat than exposing such an important issue to these floor votes where there is clearly a very strong tide running against any science-driven policy, any spending, anything that looks like it could be an earmark," he said.
"You know, there's momentum here focused in the wrong direction, but I don't want it to carry very important issues with it."
Reporters Jean Chemnick, Katie Howell and Phil Taylor contributed.
Story updated to include comments from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.