The party's budget hawks halted $500 million in military projects in bid for restraint.
Just 35 hours after they passed a $2.8 trillion budget for FY 2007 with zero Democratic votes, House Republicans ran into a wall: the division between appropriators and fiscal hawks in their own ranks.
Before a vote Friday on a veterans spending bill, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas rose to object to the first of some $500 million in military construction projects. They were "pork projects wrapped in the American flag," he said, and they violated the budget agreement. The chair agreed with his procedural objection, and the project was out. Soon, all 20 projects funded with "emergency" money had been dropped.
But as the GOP braces for fall elections that threaten its majority, rifts in its ranks are risky, especially when they involve cutting military projects during wartime. GOP appropriators, defending the bill on the House floor, said the move by Representative Hensarling and his fellow conservatives on the Republican Study Committee (RSC) threatened "vital programs in the war on terrorism," such as $50 million for the unmanned predator program. The RSC is the largest caucus within the House Republican Party and is driving the debate over budget restraint.
"Please don't tell us you support the troops," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R) of Illinois, a member of the House Appropriations committee, shooting an angry glance toward the row of RSC members. "Pick another bill, not this one," he said.
The clash between fiscal conservatives and the "cardinals" on the appropriations committee flares in every budget and spending cycle. But it's been especially acute in this election year, as Republicans see their hold on the House at stake.
Standing alone, any one of the projects dropped from the $94 billion Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs FY 2007 Appropriations bill wouldn't start a row. They include construction and maintenance of military facilities and housing.