The Speaker’s Lobby: Beginning With a THUD

The Speaker’s Lobby: Beginning With a THUD


By Chad Pergram, FOX News

Lawmakers and Congressional aides burn a lot of time concocting clunky, overwrought names for legislation which they can distill into snappy acronyms. These nifty nicknames then enable Congress to communicate the bill in shorthand and simultaneously “brand” the legislation. For instance, the “Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” law is known popularly (or unpopularly) as the PATRIOT Act. The “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act” is commonly referred to as the STOCK Act.

And so on.

Perhaps it was only appropriate that the annual appropriations bill to fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development is known on Capitol Hill as “THUD.”

That’s sure the sound the $44.1 billion spending package made last week after House Republican leaders scrapped plans to consider the measure and the Senate failed to catapult the bill over a filibuster.

Shakespeare wrote that “what is past is prologue.” And the bicameral fate of THUD could emerge as the best showcase to portend what’s ahead for Congress this fall and winter.

Lawmakers will wrestle with averting a government shutdown and raising the government’s debt ceiling when they return from their five-week recess in September. Those two issues crystallize the spending wars in Washington. House and Senate appropriators can’t even agree on the parameters under which to write their spending measures. The Republican-led House is using a lower set of digits to sate the appetite for cuts pushed by conservatives and lawmakers associated with the tea party. The Democratically-controlled Senate crafted bills at a higher spending level, arguing that’s the level dictated by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) which raised the debt ceiling and created the sequester.

– As an aside, notice there wasn’t any cutesy acronym on that onerous piece of legislation to hike the debt limit. Lawmakers weren’t keen on members of the public rattling that one off the tips of their collective tongues.

The decision to pull THUD off the House floor revealed deep fissures in the Republican ranks over the GOP’s spending strategy and the ability of leadership to cobble together a coalition to pass critical legislation.

House Republican leaders immediately cited the calendar as the primary reason they withdrew THUD.

“We’ve passed four appropriations bills already this year with Republican votes. We’re confident if there was more time this week, we’d make this our fifth,” said Mike Long, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

But there was time for the House and pass a bill to prohibit the IRS’s involvement in the implementation of Obamacare and tick through a slate of packages aimed at curbing government regulations. All so that House members could storm out of the Capitol like liberated inmates during a Libyan jailbreak at 12:27 pm Friday – not scheduled to return until September 9.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) is usually a good soldier for the GOP. Soft-spoken in his rumbling, Bluegrass draw, reporters who seek comments from 75-year-old Kentucky Republican in the Speaker’s Lobby off the House floor may fair better if they used a Miracle Ear.

“Well, that was fun!” sarcastically exclaimed Appropriations Committee member Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) when he spotted Rogers near the Speaker’s Lobby, moments after the GOP scrubbed the THUD bill launch.  A bevy of reporters then rubbered around Rogers, straining to hear what the chairman might say. Rogers was tempered and never raised his voice. “I was not consulted today,” Rogers said about the leadership’s decision to pull the THUD bill. But Rogers’ demeanor on this turn of events was like a swig of 90 proof Kentucky bourbon. It started out smooth and warm on the entry. Then there was a flash of heat at the end.

Rogers saved his firewater directed toward the Republican leadership for an uncharacteristically harsh press release.

There will be a lot of chatter over the next five weeks about a possible government closure. Punctuating that discussion is a call by many conservatives, namely Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), to use the fight over appropriations bills to defund Obamacare.

Congress historically forms an interim measure known as a “Continuing Resolution” or “CR” to avert a possible shutdown when these deadlines approach. CR’s simply renew all old funding at current spending levels or less. Boehner’s aides say privately he abhors the idea of using the CR to extract money from implementing the Affordable Care Act. But Boehner hasn’t publicly ruled out that strategy.